Thoroughly Modern Millie, the new Dick Scanlan-Jeanine Tesori musical inspired by the 1967 movie musical of the same name, will be preserved on an RCA Victor cast album, a spokesperson for the label told Playbill On-Line.
Jay David Saks will produce the disc, which gets recorded April 22, following the April 18 Broadway opening of the Jazz Age set musical comedy. Saks produced the recent Urinetown cast album, among many others.
Composer Tesori and lyricist Scanlan have written a new score for the story about a newcomer to New York City in 1922. The stage show retains "Jimmy" (by Jay Thompson, sweetened by Tesori and Scanlan) and the title tune (by James Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn) from the movie, and explodes with muscular, new, period-style songs, including "Forget About the Boy," "What Do I Need With Love," "Only in New York" and "Not for the Life of Me." Ralph Burns (Chicago) is credited with the orchestrations. It would be one of his final projects; he died in 2001. The album's release date is set for June 11.
Lyricist Scanlan, a novelist, writer and journalist who initiated Millie over the last decade (and penned the libretto with the film's screenwriter, Richard Morris) said he took inspiration from the lyricist Lorenz Hart, who was working with Richard Rodgers in the 1920s. "Often if you write witty and clever lyrics that are really adept at language, you lose a little bit of heart," observed Scanlan. "And often when you write very heartfelt lyrics, you lose a little bit of wit and cleverness. Hart could do both at the same time, in a way that no one else could. He could break your heart and do it with such sophistication."
Scanlan, who does not have a major credit as a theatre lyricist, shows in his work that perfect rhymes and craft are important — just as they were to Hart, Ira Gershwin and others of the golden age of pre-Rodgers and Hammerstein American musicals. "I choose to hold myself to the older standard which is the right one for me," Scanlan said. "I think pop writers are not even trying to do what I do. I don't think they're lazy, they have a whole different set of rules. They are just not my rules."
Tesori, who scored the critically acclaimed cult musical, Violet (with lyricist Brian Crawley), said she didn't listen to Kern and Gershwin and Rodgers. That stuff is already in her head. "What I tend to do on projects is I do a whole lot of listening for some weeks and then I put it away," Tesori said. "For me, it was more about the dance bands of the period. I listened to the early Louis Armstrong. It's fresh, his take on music."
One thing to remember about this production is that it's not your mother's Millie: It may take characters and elements of the 1967 film's story, but the score is 90 percent new. Some theatregoers still wrongly refer to the show as a revival. It's not. The property began as a film, and the print ads for the show have tried to emphasize that it's a big, brand-new musical comedy.
"It's so different than the 'Millie' movie," director Michael Mayer admitted. "The heart of the play is the same as the movie. It's the basic story, and they do tap dance in the elevator — the things people know about the film are there. But the movie is used as the shell of an idea. We're using it as source material — it's not trying to take the movie and put it on stage. We're only using two-and-a-half songs from the movie."
When the curtain rises on Thoroughly Modern Millie at Broadway's Marquis Theatre, audiences see a forlorn girl from Kansas, suitcase in hand, standing before the glittering New York City of 1922.
Director Mayer told Playbill On-Line Thoroughly Modern Millie has parallels to "The Wizard of Oz," that classic tale of another girl from Kansas finding herself in a brave new world.
"I love the 'Wizard of Oz' element to it," Mayer said during the rehearsal period in February. "It's Dorothy coming from Kansas. That's how it was originally written, but they changed it because Julie Andrews is British. She comes from Kansas to the Emerald City, she goes over the rainbow to Oz, to find her heart's desire — or what she thinks is her heart's desire. There's a good witch, and a bad witch. She meets all these colorful characters along the way. The journey she thinks is external is actually internal, and she doesn't have to go back to Kansas at the end. That's the great part, she can stay in Oz!"
The "Dorothy" in question in the new Broadway musical — with book by Scanlan and original screenwriter Richard Morris — is newcomer Sutton Foster, playing a young woman named Millie Dillmount who reinvents herself in an era of great cultural change in America. Among the "colorful characters" she meets along the are love interest Jimmy (Gavin Creel), fellow hotel resident Miss Dorothy (Angela Christian), serious bachelor businessman Trevor Graydon (Marc Kudisch), corrupt hotelier Mrs. Meers (Harriet Harris), who serves as a kind of "bad witch"; Chinese immigrants Bun Foo (Francis Jue) and Ching Ho (Ken Leung); Josephine Baker-style diva Muzzy Van Hossmere (Sheryl Lee Ralph), who serves as a kind of "good witch"; and Miss Flannery (Anne L. Nathan), the steno-pool matron who gets a hilarious tap break in the middle of her office.
The ensemble includes Kate Baldwin, Roxanne Barlow, Melissa Bell Chait, Catherine Brunell, Joyce Chittick, J.P. Christiensen, Julie Connors, David Eggers, Gregg Goodbrod, Aldrin Gonzales, Jessica Grove, Susan Haefner, Amy Heggins, Joanne Hunter, Alisa Klein, Matt Lashey, Darren Lee, Dan LoBuono, Casey Nicholaw, Noah Racey, Aaron Ramey, T. Oliver Reid, Sharon Scruggs, Megan Sikora and Brandon Wardell.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is presented by Michael Leavitt, Fox Theatricals and Hal Luftig, with Stewart F. Lane, James L. Nederlander, Independent Presenters Network, John York Noble, Libby Adler Mages/Mari Glick and Whoopi Goldberg.
The show will play 8 PM Tuesday-Saturday, 2 PM Wednesday and Saturday and 3 PM Sunday. Tickets range $55-$95. For tickets, call (212) 307-4100, or in-person at the Marquis Theatre box office (1535 Broadway at 46th Street).
There will be added performances on 8 PM Mondays April 8 and April 15. There are no performances Sunday April 14 or Sunday April 21.