Harriet Harris, best known as Dr. Frasier Crane's agent on TV's "Frasier," will play the evil white slave trading Manhattan landlord Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie, opening April 18, 2002 at the Marriott Marquis Theatre.
Harris played Meers in its original La Jolla Playhouse engagement for the final week of performances, replacing Pat Carroll who originated the musical's role. Before appearing in the recent Broadway revival of The Man Who Came to Dinner, Harris performed in New York in Jeffrey, The Crucible, Man and Superman and Hamlet.
Playing Meer's Chinese henchmen are Frances Jue as Bun Foo and Ken Lewng as as the love-struck bellboy Ching Ho. Jue starred in the national tour of M. Butterfly.
Sutton Foster was already announced as Millie, the "thoroughly modern" flapper girl at the heart of the new musical with updated material by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan. Joining her earlier were Gavin Creel as Millie's love interest, Jimmy, and Angela Christian as Miss Dorothy. Bells Are Ringing's Marc Kudisch repeats his La Jolla Playhouse role as Trevor Graydon, the other man with whom Millie falls in love.
Kudisch's Broadway credits include The Wild Party, The Scarlet Pimpernel, High Society and Beauty and the Beast. Creel most recently appeared in the Encores! Hair and has performed the Erik Stoltz part in readings of the musical Mask. He also toured the U.S. and Canada as Nick Piazza in Fame: The Musical. Christian made her Broadway debut as Lily in James Joyce's The Dead. The pivotal role of the socialite Muzzy, played in La Jolla by Tonya Pinkins, is still under negotiations. Previews for Thoroughly Modern Millie begin March 19, 2002.
Le Bar Bat may not quite pass as a 1922 speakeasy, but for all intents and purposes the Manhattan hot spot was home to le jazz hot May 21 when Thoroughly Modern Millie first gave a sneak peek at her "girl in the red dress."
Foster, in scarlet flapper wear, introduced several of the new musical's new and old tunes from the Le Bar Bat's main stage. Thoroughly Modern Millie, originally a 1967 Julie Andrews film, has the perfect Academy Award-nominated introduction song already written - by Jimmy van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, no less - and it was on "Thoroughly Modern Millie" that Foster and her chorus of boys and girls in black first entered. In the jazzy song, Millie encourages the audience to "check your personality" and introduces them to her new home where "sex and booze/jazz and blues/we don't know what to choose/that's how we live in Manhattan."
When the stage cleared of chorines, Foster sat on the bar to deliver her 11 o'clock number, "Gimme Gimme." The number, which starts out as a quiet contemplation of her options ("marry well or pin my future on the boy I love"), builds to a demand for "a love affair like Scott and Zelda's," for "happy ever after" and for "fat boy's famous arrow."
"Forget About the Boy," the final number presented opens the second act, as Millie and friends swear off the men they are seeing to a tap beat (choreography is by Rob Ashford, whose credits include Time and Again and Tenderloin at City Center). "When he comes crawlin'/I'm not fallin'," they promise in this original number by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlon.
Following the numbers, Tony-nominated director Michael Mayer spoke briefly, introducing a video presentation by "Caryn Johnson." That's the real name of filmdom's Whoopi Goldberg who sang her own introduction to "Thoroughly Modern Millie," culminating in the line "Give us your money." Goldberg, an Academy Award winner for "Ghost," is one of the show's producers and joked in the presentation about taking a role - perhaps Millie - in the show.
"I can look like Holly Hunter if I want to," she said. She went on to describe the show as full of "high style and sheer silly" with a mixture of classic 20's tunes and new numbers from Tesori and Scanlon.
When the video presentation ended, two of the "less well known" producers Hal Luftig and Michael Leavitt hinted that there was more casting news to come, aside from Foster who will repeat her role as Millie. Since contracts haven't been signed, they'd only hint.
Let the speculating begin - they promise the return of a Tony Award winning actress to the Broadway stage and an actress who starred in one of Broadway's most beloved shows, but would say no more. Wild conjecture has suggested that perhaps producer Goldberg is interested in returning to Broadway where she starred as Pseudolus in a gender-bending turn in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum>
Thoroughly Modern Millie is based on the 1967 film musical comedy directed by George Roy Hill. The picture, a 1920s spoof, starred Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore, Beatrice Lillie, John Gavin, James Fox, Carol Channing, Jack Soo and Pat Morita.
Two of the film's comic pastiche songs ("Jimmy" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie"), in the style of The Boyfriend, are being used in the stage version, with new tunes by composer Tesori (Violet and Lincoln Center Theatre's Twelfth Night) and lyricist Scanlan.
The libretto is by Richard Morris and Scanlan, based on Morris' original story and screenplay. Screenwriter Morris died in 1996 after completing work on the script with Scanlan.
Producing Thoroughly Modern Millie are Leavitt, Fox Theatricals, Luftig, Stewart F. Lane, the Nederlander Organization and Goldberg.