St. Thomas More takes on ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’

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St. Thomas More Academy will stage the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie” Saturday and Sunday at Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts. Cast members include, from left, Devin Parks as Millie Dillmount, Jon Titus as Jimmy Smith, Naomi Ortiz as Muzzy Von Hossmere, Nick Reyes as Trevor Graydon and Ally Ibach as Dorothy Brown. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

MAGNOLIA –– The story of a 1920s’ flapper looking for love in the big city is hitting the Schwartz Center for the Arts stage Saturday and Sunday as St. Thomas More’s Midnight Dreary Players perform the classic musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

“The theater program has been around for 11 years and ‘Millie’ was one of the first productions but hasn’t been done since,” said St. Thomas More drama teacher and “Millie” director Lorraine Steinhoff. “The kids also wanted to dance and it’s a dance-heavy show they can have fun with.”

Devin Petka, a senior playing the title role, is especially looking forward to the show.

“I was really excited to find out what we were doing this year,” she said. “I’ve acted since I was a kid and I love dancing so this puts both together. And I really like tapping and Millie gets to do plenty of that.”

Unlike Devin, most of the cast didn’t start performing until high school and never had any intention to act.

“We try to encourage the kids to get involved in different activities when they get to Thomas More, whether it be sports or an academic group,” Ms. Steinhoff said. “And for choir kids, getting into drama seems like the next logical step.”

“I wasn’t planning on getting into drama at all but when I was a freshman, they were looking for people for a play and some upperclassmen kind of encouraged me,” said senior John Titus, who plays a lead role of Jimmy Smith, one of Millie’s two love interests.

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In the offices of Sincere Trust Insurance in 1922 Manhattan, the stenography pool includes, from left, St. Thomas More Academy students Kayce Boyer, Alexis Callahan, Molly Thompson, Sarah Aleman, Devin Parks. Marissa Garzarella, Zoe Kelly, Ana Bole, Kyla Lavender, Mary Rose Artor, Esther Dawley and Megan Sadlowski.

“He’s a rich kid that’s just trying to sell himself as an average Joe looking for love. He wants someone who isn’t going after him for his money,” John said. “It’s a fun part because he’s smooth and I get to play around with his accent.”

He’s also a character who lived 90 years ago, as the musical is set in the 1920s.

“This is such a great show because it’s a period piece so everything is new and unique to them,” Ms. Steinhoff said of the actors. “A lot have done their own research to learn more about the 1920s.”

“I love that it takes place in a different time period and has a different style of music,” said Nick Reyes, a senior playing the role of Trevor –– Millie’s boss and unsuspecting love interest. “The music has a lot of tight harmonies, which is a style based upon a totally different time.”

Nick was another student talked into doing drama during his freshman year by his choir peers.

“I finally decided to try it and now I love it,” he said.

“I think that’s part of what makes it so much fun for everyone,” Ms. Steinhoff said. “Joining a production like this, a lot of people with different interests and personalities are together and after a while, it’s just like one big family.”

Devin, John, Nick and the other lead characters are only a small handful of the 40-something “family” members of cast and crew. St. Thomas More has a student body of about 200, so the production includes nearly a quarter of the school’s students.

Getting all of them to rehearsal has been difficult as most of the drama group participates in athletics and extracurricular music opportunities such as All-State Band and Choir

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Inside the Hotel Priscilla, from right, Kelley Northam, as the evil Mrs. Meers, plots a scheme with her henchmen Jessica Zhang as Bun Foo and Vincent Ains as Ching Ho.

which had rehearsals earlier this week in the choir room where much of the production’s rehearsal and preparation space is housed.

Winter is usually the best time of year for a big production because most other activities are in a lull. The cast and crew have rehearsed three times a week after school and the

drama class that meets during the day did its part by working on both sets and costumes.

“Since the costumes are so period-specific, we’re using a mix of what we’ve collected since the program started 11 years ago and we’re even making some things from scratch,” Ms. Steinhoff said.

The period of “Millie” also requires special looks, so many of the female characters are wearing wigs and practicing their 1920s makeup.

The show moves into the Schwartz Center Saturday morning with the premiere that night.

“It’s going to be a bit of a crunch, but we’re glad that a local theater is staying so busy and that we’re lucky enough to use their venue,” Ms. Steinhoff said.

Saturday night’s show is at 7 with the Sunday matinée at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 and available at St. Thomas More Academy by calling 697-8100 or at the Schwartz Center, 226 S. State St., Dover.

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