Theater: Broadway by the Bay goes ‘Modern’

New York City in 1922, where the Roaring Twenties are going full speed, is the setting of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Broadway by the Bay presents the musical in San Mateo; the show runs July 10 to July 27.

The first “Thoroughly Modern Millie” was a 1967 film musical starring Mary Tyler Moore with a screenplay by Richard Morris. In 2002, the show opened on Broadway, featuring music by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics by Dick Scanlan. It won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Actress.

It’s about Millie Dillmont, a girl from a small town in Kansas who goes to New York in search of a new life. Though she plans to get a secretarial job and marry her rich boss, she finds herself falling for a penniless paperclip salesman.

Peninsula native Melissa WolfKlain, whom audiences will remember from “Peter Pan” and “Singing in the Rain,” plays Millie in the Broadway by the Bay production. She says, “This is a role I have dreamed of acting. Like ‘Peter Pan,’ the show revolves around Millie. She is in almost every scene, nonstop with speaking, singing and dancing.”

Even though WolfKlain says “I like to think of myself as a funny person,” she admits that this role is her first ina comedy. She adds, “At San Mateo High School I always wanted to make my friends laugh and have fun.”

Millie, WolfKlain says, is much like women today: They want to be modern, and “do their own thing,” but face internal struggles over life choices of love, career and family.

Ben Jones returns to Broadway by the Bay, where he played Ravenal in “Showboat,” as Jimmy Smith. He says, “It is easy to put myself into this role, as Jimmy is close to my age, very energetic and a lot of fun. The period dialogue is not easy, as it has a fast pace. Yet it fits both today and the time period that it portrays.”

Director Dennis Lickteig makes his Broadway by the Bay debut in this show. He says, “When I saw the production in New York, I was very impressed by the fresh approach showing a tone of optimism as well as the transfer of new music for modern audiences.”

Calling “Millie” a family show all ages will enjoy, he says, “We are lucky to have such extremely talented people, who bring tremendous energy and experience. WolfKlain is a triple threat with her acting, singing and dancing routines. She brings a leadership quality for everyone onstage.”

Attilio Tribuzi is the musical director, the choreographer is Robyn Tribuzi.

The show is onstage at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center, 600 North Delaware St. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $17 to $45; except discount special family matinees at 2 p.m. July 19 and July 26 cost $15 general and $5 for children. For information, call (650) 579-5565 or visit www.broadwaybythebay.org.

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