West High School music department will be performing “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” the six-time Tony Award-winning musical and a five-time Drama Desk Award recipient. This musical is set in the 1920s about a young, aspiring-to-be modern woman, Millie, who seeks independence and a rich man. Millie rooms at a hotel for actresses where she meets Ms. Meers and soon discovers that life for a modern isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. “Thoroughly Modern Millie” is an up-beat dance musical the family will surely enjoy and can be seen at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts on May 11 through May 13.
Linda Tieman, director of West High School’s vocal music department, is thrilled to be putting on the first local production of this musical.
“We chose “Thoroughly Modern Millie” because we wanted a show that hasn’t been done locally, and we thought that this show was really cute and totally different. Coming off of “Wizard of Oz,” which is a big character-oriented show, we wanted something really cute and something completely different,” Tieman said. “This show has been fun since the downbeat of the first rehearsal. The cast has been great, everyone gets along; no conflict of any kind. It is such high energy and peppy, the students can come to rehearsal after a bad day and immediately feel better because the show is just so much fun.”
Tieman is also very excited to be putting on a show with a wide variety of musical tastes.
“It’s funny,” Tieman explained. “The musical numbers have clips of “America the Beautiful,” “Joplin” and “Dixieland;” it is just a hodgepodge of different music. It is set in the 1920s, so it has that kind of flavor. As soon as you get used to a slow song, bam, we’re tap dancing to another number.”
The musical involves a heavily amount of dancing, including tap, and the students and director are excited to show off what they’ve been working at ruthlessly for the last few months.
“We were very blessed to have Andrea Leeann Bodmer and Bobbi Ann Triplett choreograph the show. Andrea choreographed for us in the past, she went to West, and it has been great to have her return for Millie, even with her busy schedule,” Tieman said.
Tieman has very high hopes for this show and expects the average high outcome with her musicals.
“Every director hopes that each show can be as good, or better, than the last. This show is going to live up to our name; the show has been really great,” Tieman said.
With “Thoroughly Modern Millie” coming to curtain call, Tieman is completely taken by her show; however, the musical enthusiast in her can’t help but to be thinking of what is next.
“We’ve had a really strong growth of male talent in the music department this year, so, next year’s show is going to be a very guy-heavy show,” Tieman said. “We’ve had some ideas about next year, but nothing concrete, so let’s just call it a surprise.”
Andrea Bodmer, tap dance choreographer of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” has been dancing for five years and has been in almost a dozen shows and recitals. Bodmer also helped choreograph two of the musicals while she was a student at West and choreographed last year’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.”
“I have experience being in West’s musicals so I know the hard work that has to go into these productions to make them successful. I have worked with these students before and they are very dedicated and talented kids. They are great to work with and I have a blast teaching them their choreography,” Bodmer said. “I know that this performance of Millie will be amazing just as the other west shows have been. Mrs. Tieman is amazing and dedicates a lot of her time into these shows. She truly cares about these kids. She wouldn’t put all of this hard work into it if she didn’t. It was a privilege to work with her as well as the students.”
Alison Thompson, junior member of the West music department, is playing the villain of the show, Ms. Meers. Ms. Meers is a dried-up, former actress that is out for revenge on young, actresses who are making it in the biz. Alison has been doing theatre since she was 3, and has been involved in about 20 local productions.
“Ms. Meers is the sneaky, diva villain that has everyone fooled until the end of the show. She pretends to be a simple hotel owner, but she is secretly a pimp. She sells the girls that stay at her hotel into slavery, to a man in China named Buddha,” Thompson said. “I love Meerzy, although she does put me in a bad mood. She knows what she wants and gets what she wants, and if someone finds out she is who she is, she blackmails them. Ms. Meers is something else; you really have to watch the show to see who she really is.”
Drew, senior member of West’s music department, has been active in theatre for seven years and has been in more than a dozen local productions. Drew will be graduating this spring and continuing his education at Transylvania University as a double major in vocal performance and PPE (Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics).
“This show is a lot of fun, and it has a lot of slapstick comedy. The ’20s are just a really interesting time in our history and I think that Millie showcases that, but still gives a nice comedy plotline.”
Cunningham has a lot of experience in theatre and has his teacher to thank for helping him get to where he is.
“I love Mrs. Tieman; all of the work she has done with me during the past four years has prepared me for college and has helped me get scholarships for vocal performance,” Cunningham said.
Jacob Tolliver, senior member of West’s music department, has been involved in theatre for seven years and has been in eight local shows.
“I’ve had the most fun with this role than any other, and the music definitely fits the style I prefer to sing,” Tolliver said. “I am definitely not a dancer by any means, but it is really fun to get into it in this show as well. The show is just awesome; it’s a West production.”
Billie Curtis, senior member of West’s music department, has been involved in theatre for three years and has been in three local shows. Curtis has the title character in this production, and is excited for curtain call.
“The show is really high energy and fun; I love it.” Curtis said. “The choreography was directed by Bobbi Ann Triplett and has turned out to be really awesome. I love my part and have had a blast working with everyone.”
Brittany Bazler, senior member of West’s music department, is an ensemble cast member in “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”
“Mrs. and Mr. Tieman, Ed Engles and his family, the choreographers; everyone behind the scenes makes everything possible,” Bazler said. “Nobody really knows what all they do, but they put in a lot of hard work.”
Portsmouth West High School vocal music department invites everyone to come see their production of the award-winning musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” at the VRCFA on May 11 and 12 at 7:30 and May 13 at 3 p.m. Tickets can bought at the box office or online at Ticketmaster.com. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students. For more information, call the box office at 740-351-3600.