Theater students take 1920s New York flapper lifestyle on stage in musical farce Thoroughly Modern Millie
Courtney Bergeron as Millie Dillmount, flanked by fellow workers and head stenographer, Miss Flannery, played by Alissa Cavaretta.
The plot revolves around Millie Dillmount and her misadventures in life and love as she navigates a new city entering the workforce and pursuing first love.
In the musical, Hahnville High School Talented Theatre students get a chance to display their flare for not only acting, but also dance and song.
Hahnville senior Courtney Bergeron, who stars as Millie, said the role was her first lead in a musical. However, as a student of Images Dance Studio in Destrehan she has been involved in dance and regional theater since third grade, including participating in the Nutcracker Christmas performance held annually at Destrehan High School.
She said playing the role of Millie is her first musical and she is excited about the chance to shine.
"I’ve done some plays with some big significant roles, but nothing like this one before," Bergeron said.
She summed up the play, but would not reveal all of the details.
"Basically, it is about a girl Millie and she’s coming from her small town in Kansas and breaking into the big city and she goes and has some problems that she meets on the way," Bergeron said. "So I’ll leave it at that. You’ve got to come see it if you want to find out what the problems are."
In a rehearsal only a few days before the play, which opens Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. at Hahnville High School, Bergeron slinked around the stage trying to win the affection of her wealthy boss, Trevor Graydon, portrayed by Hahnville Senior Michael Jones.
In addition, to Jones’s character, Hahnville senior Briar Falgoust serves as Jimmy Smith, another love interest for the flighty Millie.
"I’m the guy that Millie falls in love with," Falgoust said. "I am the guy she meets and essentially falls in love with throughout all of her struggles throughout the play."
Falgoust said he took inspiration for the role from watching actors who grew up during the era.
"I watched the Gene Kelley movie ‘Singing in the Rain,’ and I guess I take my talking and try to base it off of what he does because he would know it better than anyone else," Falgoust said.
Falgosut has been in Talented Theatre since fourth grade and he credits the beginnings of his onstage career to a recommendation by a teacher. Now, eight years later he finds himself in the biggest role he has ever played.
"This is my third musical," he said. "I was in Footloose this summer at River Region and we did Little Shop of Horrors last year, but this is the biggest part I’ve ever hard so I am excited."
Falgoust said although his presence is scarce in the first part of the play, his character becomes more involved as the plot evolves.
He said his favorite scene in the show does not involve any dialogue, only dancing.
"My favorite part of the show is when Millie and her friends see Jimmy outside of this speakeasy nightclub," Falgoust said. "It is prohibition and liquor is illegal so he knocks on the wall to the speakeasy and there is this big number that has no words, but it’s a big dance number and you get what goes on through their motions and their movements and their mannerisms."
Hahnville High School Talented Theatre teacher Lucas Harms is directing the show. He said it is his fourth time participating in a locally produced musical.
"As far as musicals, we started with Wizard of Oz three years ago and then two years ago we did The Spelling Bee and then last year my wife directed Little Shop of Horrors here," Harms said. "So this will be the fourth one that Hahnville High School has done in this vein."
He credits his wife, Megan Harms, as co-director.
"She’s managing costumes and props and anything that I miss," Harms said.
He said he feels musicals are more family friendly and give children the chance to enjoy the show more than they would a serious drama.
"A musical will bring a bigger audience, than say ‘Death of a Salesman,’" Harms said. "Straight plays usually deal with heavier material than a fun farce musical you can bring a family to. It’s hard to get a five year old to go ‘oh, Willy Lohman, what a guy,’ but they can appreciate Millie Dillmount."
Another reason Harms gave for bringing the musical to St. Charles Parish is to broaden his student’s onstage experiences. He also said it helped that in he and Megan’s time onstage they both performed in the piece.
"We liked this musical. We know it fairly well, we were both in it at one point as certain characters, but we just thought it would be a good musical one because we thought it would really introduce a dance number to the high school at this level," Harms said. "We don’t feel that this stylized type of dancing is done a whole lot in this area at the high school level. So we decided to put this as one of the reasons."
Harms said the cast of the play is the largest he has ever directed and he feels confident in their ability to pull it off.
"I feel more prepared at this point with a cast this size, there are 32 people in it, so that is the biggest cast we’ve ever had for any show here," Harms said. "There is some more painting to be done. One or two more things to be built, costume pieces to be sorted out, but I feel great every one of the performers did fantastic."
Thursday night’s opening will be the culmination of many months of preparation.
Bergeron said she auditioned for the lead role right after Thanksgiving break and has been working to embody Millie ever since.
"It’s been a while and everyone has worked so hard and it is such a great show," Bergeron said. "I think it is such great show for the community to come see since we have this great art so close to home people should definitely take advantage of it and come see it."
Showings for the play will take place on Jan. 17, 18 and 25 at 7 p.m. and Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. at the Hahnville High School Auditorium. Admission is $10 for presale and $15 at the door. To order tickets go to milliehhs.eventbrite.com. For more information send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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