For pure joy and delight, you can't beat Thoroughly Modern Millie, the flapper-era musical that won six Tony Awards in its 2002 Broadway debut.
And the version playing through April 19 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre is joy, delight and more, thanks to a stellar cast and incredible direction by Michael Ursua, who brings out the best in each performer (who knew the seriously handsome baritone W.C. Green could be such a clown?) and keeps the show bubbling along like a speakeasy champagne fountain.
The story is simple: in one instance, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl; in another, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, another boy gets girl, and that's okay.
It all happens amid choreographer Katie Kerwin's great dance numbers, in front of Tom Hansen's terrific sets and lights and inside scores of Angela D. Hoerner's gorgeous, sparkling costumes.
All that said, the show still boils down to the terrific performances, starting in the title role with Show Palace newcomer Missy Dowse, a young, big- voiced, smooth dancing darling who will likely be the next Show Palace alum to land on a Broadway stage.
Miss Dowse's Millie Dillmount is a wide-eyed but slightly cynical "thoroughly modern" Kansas girl who comes to New York City to snare a rich husband and maybe a boyfriend or three on the side. This Millie won't be stopped, not by a typical New York City mugging nor a dastardly landlady in the kidnapping/white slavery business.
Through it all, Miss Dowse is a near show-stopper, whether singing the heartfelt love song Jimmy, the subtle to belting Gimme, Gimme, or just dead-panning through a scene of mayhem going on right over her head.
Luckily, she's surrounded by some of the best in the business — a charming Joey Panek as the cocky man-about-town Jimmy Smith, who is as determined to remain a womanizer as Millie is to be a gold digger; the velvet-voiced Paulette Dozier as the sophisticated Muzzy Van Hossmere, who inadvertently fell in love with a millionaire; the comic Susan Haldeman as the conniving landlady Mrs. Meers, the white slaver; and Sara DelBeato, who shows a wildly comic bent as the uptight but vain steno pool chief Miss Flannery.
Special kudos to Steven Cuevas and Mikhail Pontenila, who speak perfect Cantonese (translated on side screens) as Mrs. Meers' unwilling kidnapping conspirators Ching Ho and Bun Foo, who only want to earn enough money to bring their mom over from Hong Kong (hint: be sure to note the projection screens as you exit after the final curtain call).
As a bonus, Cuevas' Ching Ho provides a special treat of diversity worth having in these times.
One unforgettable scene is when Green's usually uptight boss Mr. Graydon and Annie Janson's fluttery Miss Dorothy Brown first meet in a deftly directed mellerdrammer rendition of Victor Herbert's Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life that segues into a delightfully over-the-top I'm Falling in Love with Someone, as an oblivious Millie makes a phone call beneath the couple's zany antics.
Of course, it all started with brilliant casting by Show Palace artistic director Matthew McGee, who somehow found the perfect Millie in New York-based Dowse; two terrific singer-actors who speak fluent Cantonese in Cuevas and Pontenila; and a beautiful jazz recording artist who can also dance and act in Dozier.
But it took director Ursua to put it all together for a jubilant evening's entertainment for anyone, any age who loves dancing, singing and laughter.