Millie Supplies Laughs In Lively Performance At Engeman Theater

By Janee Law

jlaw@longislandergroup.com

Tessa Grady (Millie Dillmount) delivers an exciting performance in the opening scene “Not for the Life of Me” in John W. Engeman Theater’s production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

Tessa Grady (Millie Dillmount) delivers an exciting performance in the opening scene “Not for the Life of Me” in John W. Engeman Theater’s production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

Where the hair is short and the dresses sparkle and flap, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” takes audiences back to the roaring 20s, to witness a lively and energetic performance at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport Village.

At the height of the Jazz age in New York City, audiences are in for a night of laughter and sensational entertainment, which includes singing, tap dancing, scat singing and more.

The production, which on Broadway has won six Tony awards, follows the original story and screenplay by Richard Morris for the 1967 Universal Pictures film.

At Engeman Theater, choreography is done by Dena DiGiacinto and Drew Humphrey, who also directed the production. The story follows the journey of Millie Dillmount (Tessa Grady), a quirky and determined flapper, who moves from Kansas to Manhattan in search of a husband, finding what she initially tried to avoid: love.

In this journey, Millie meets a variety of characters that help her along the way including Miss Dorothy Brown (Sarah Stevens), a curly cued redhead, who shocks the crowd with pipes that can raise the ceiling.

Sarah Stevens (Miss Dorothy Brown) and Tessa Grady (Millie Dillmount) perform “How the Other Half Lives” in John W. Engeman Theater’s production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Photos by Michael DeCristofaro

Sarah Stevens (Miss Dorothy Brown) and Tessa Grady (Millie Dillmount) perform “How the Other Half Lives” in John W. Engeman Theater’s production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Photos by Michael DeCristofaro

Millie also meets Jimmy Smith (Daniel Plimpton), an eligible suitor who does whatever it takes to pursue Millie, including standing on the ledge of a window in “I Turned the Corner.”

In addition to the talented cast, Mrs. Meers (Michele Ragusa), owner of Hotel Priscilla who kidnaps orphaned women into slavery, had the crowd laughing every time she stepped on stage. With a mix of evil and humor and a poisonous apple has her weapon of choice, Mrs. Meers reflects classic Disney villains in “They Don’t Know.”

“I wanted to be sure that I created her with taste and with care and I think I’ve achieved that,” Ragusa said. “As an actor, to have a role where there’s really no boundaries at all is incredibly freeing. It’s so fun and to hear the response from the audience just feels awesome.”

Ragusa, who also appeared in Engeman’s “Lend Me A Tenor” and “Boeing, Boeing,” said her favorite scene to perform was with the laundry basket and “Muqin,” sung by Ching Ho (Anthony Chan) and Bun Foo (Carl Hsu). Although sung in Chinese, a screen is pulled down from the ceiling for the audience to follow the subtitles.

In the opening of Act II, the audience is jumped back into the excitement where a ban of women join together in an energetic tap dancing number, “Forget About the Boy.” The scene had the audience whistling, shouting and clapping with thrill.

“The voices were incredible,” said Dorothy Gouzoules, of East Northport, who was in the crowd. “You couldn’t imagine anybody else in the roles. It was very entertaining, and it kept you awake.”

Lisa Bentivegna, of Centerport, said she enjoyed the whole performance, from the singing and the acting.

“It was very upbeat, lively and Mrs. Meers was pretty funny,” she added.

When the curtains closed, the ensemble received a standing ovation from the audience.

The last day to witness the production is July 10. Showtimes are Thursdays and Fridays, at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the 250 Main St. box office, or at Engemantheater.com, and range $69-$74.