By MIKE CHAIKEN
The key to any movie, television show, book… or stage play is the main character should be likeable and relatable.
And the cast of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which is now being performed by Connecticut Theatre Company,” says the title character fits the bill.
The show takes place in the 1920s and tells the story of a young woman who leaves her smalltown in Kansas in the dust as she hoofs it to New York City to be a star on the stage.
“She’s very strong and she’s unapologetic about herself, which is very admirable for someone in 1922 ,” said Jackie DeMaio, who has the title role for the CTC. “Right off the bat, she comes off really strong. Your first interaction with her is she trips some random guy because no one was helping her,” said DeMaio. “She immediately grabs your attention. She says this is what I want, this is what I need from you, and how can you help me. When you get to know her better, she has a sweet side, a softer side. (But) she’s very strong, fun, and funny.”
“She’s independent,” said Jenna Levitt, who plays Muzzy Van Hossmere in the show. “She came from a tiny little town and wanted to make something of herself so she picked herself up and left to pursue her dream… She’s sweet and fun and innocent.”
“I like her confidence,” said Kristi Yurko of Bristol, who plays Alice. “She’s a very confident woman.”
Yurko continued, “She moves away from home to go to New York to pursue her dream of being an actor. I think that’s very brave of her to do.”
“I like her modernism,” said Zach Cote of Bristol, who plays Bun Foo. “I know it’s a little cliché but it’s a very important part of the show. Times are always changing, even though it’s the 1920s, it easily could apply to 2017. People always are constantly changing the way the look, how they’re styling their hair, the way they dress. That is what Millie is all about. She wants everyone to realize the times are changing and they should keep up with the times.”
“She’s so bubbly,” said Tullio Milani, who plays Millie’s love interest Jimmy. “She has a personality that when she enters the room, she just lights it up.”
“She’s out there to leave her mark and she makes sure everyone knows that,” said Milani.
As someone who was a raised a country girl and now finds herself in a city environment, Erin Frechette of Bristol, who is a member of the ensemble, said she can definitely relate to the character.
If she were in Millie’s shoes, Yurko said, “I would definitely be nervous because moving to a new city is very nerve-racking but I feel after a while I’d get used to all of my new surroundings and it would be really fun.”
Moving from a small town to the big city is about “going for your dreams. If you don’t go for it, how do you know if it is actually going to happen unless you put yourself out there,” said Cote. “And that’s what Millie does.”
However, Millie is no meek country girl moving into the city, said DeMaio. “She’s like a city girl who’s stuck in the country… it’s a spin on that archetype, which I like.”
In addition to Millie, the cast also enjoys the array of characters that accompany the lead.
“Every character is complex, with their own story,” said Milani. “It’s beautifully written.”
“I think it’s a great combination of different personalities and how they mix together. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometime’s it’s more drama,” said Frechette.
The show flaunts its humor.
“It’s classic comedy,” said DeMaio. “It’s clean comedy. It’s family friendly, which is always nice. It’s got something for everyone.”
“It’s subtle comedy,” said Milani. “A little bit goes a long way. It’s not dirty. It’s humor that gives you a chuckle.”
The cast also is in love with the music of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.
“The music is very upbeat and exciting, which is always entertaining, which goes along with the dancing, which is very upbeat and entertaining, too.”
“The music is outstanding. It’s my favorite, honestly,’ said Cote. “The jazz is what gets you going. It makes you want to move your body.”
“The ‘20s style is always fun and the dancing is great. It’s got really beautiful lyrics and all the characters have great stories. The music is beautiful, fun, and it captures your attention,” said DeMaio.
“I love every song in this show,” said Levitt. “It’s different from the modern musical. I love that it’s a dance show. Even if you’re not a dancer, you want to start dancing.”
“The music is so fantastic,’ said Frechette. “It’s such a dance-oriented show. I’m a dancer that’s what drew me to it.”
“The songs just make you happy,” said Milani.
As for why audiences should make a trip out to New Britain this weekend or next, Yurko said “all of the cast members are very into character and they very entertaining and the music is wonderful.”
“We have such a diverse array of talent that’s amazing,” said Frechette.
“There’s a huge amount of talent,” said Milani. “It’s a community theater but it’s really professional grade.”
“We worked really hard to put on a really tight show,” said Levitt. “There’s a lot of talent and it’s a lot of fun.”
“It makes you want to get up and dance,” said Cote. “It’s a feel good musical, drama, comedy— you have it all.”
“You’ll laugh, you’ll cry It’s a great story. It’s really fun. It has something for everyone,” said DeMaio.
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” runs through May 21. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 7 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $23 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased online at www.connecticuttheatrecompany.org or bought at the door. All performances are held at the Repertory Theatre, 23 Norden St. in New Britain.