Not one of the best-known musicals on the circuit, it was always going to be a bit of a risk to put on this technically difficult show, but Selkirk Amateur Operatic Society have really nailed it.
The story, set in 1920s Manhattan, tells the tale of a down-at-heel woman who is determined to make it in the big city and marry her boss – even before she’s met him.
Before long, there’s a love pentagon going on, alongside a dastardly sideplot of kidnapping for the white slave trade.
The small company has really put in the hours on this one, and it shows.
Taking on the biggest job, the titular role of Millie Dillmount, is the supremely talented Rachel Inglis, who is so polished she shines.
From the opening number ‘Not for the Life of Me’ to the emphatically powerful ‘Gimme Gimme’, Rachel is all but word-perfect, and her ability to remember the dance moves as well as her lines is as impressive as her accent.
Her male lead, the ever-capable Stuart Mitchell, who plays the playboy Jimmy Smith, is a joy to watch. His comic timing is impeccable, and he is the perfect foil to Rachel’s Millie. Their duets are beautifully harmonised and their on-stage chemistry works a treat.
But there has to be a baddie. And here, it comes in the guise of Val McLean, whose completely un-pc portrayal of the wicked boarding house owner white slave trader Mrs Meers – who slips effortlessly between her in-story guises and drips evil, especially in the song ‘They Don’t Know’ – So welcome all ye bright young ladies; You’re checking into Hotel Hades – but also hams it up brilliantly with her two henchmen Ching Ho and Bun Foo, played by Andrew Thoms and David Mitchell respectively. They get a couple of songs, too (in Chinese, with English subtitles). Whether they are word perfect or not is a question better asked of someone who speaks Chinese.
Society chairman Robin Murray is fantastic as the bullish boss Trevor Graydon – his Manhattan bark is definitely worse than his bite, as he falls for Millie’s pal, the rather ditzy (Miss) Dorothy Brown, effortlessly played by Yvonne Mitchell.
Robin gives it laldy in the tongue-twisting Speed Test song – only trumped by Rachel repeating his words back to him.
Also strong in their respective roles are Tracey Mulholland, who bounces with bravado as the brilliantly-named Muzzy Van Hossmere, and Lorraine Lynn, who brings the brash battleaxe Miss Flannery to life.
The Priscilla Girls all perform their choral roles superbly, most of them doubling up as Muzzy’s dancers and office workers.
With all the intricate harmonies in many of the songs, the comic sequences are a well-planned change of pace. And some of them, such as the drunken dancing in the speakeasy, are absolutely hilarious – Kyle Fairbairn’s octopus-armed Letch a highlight.
And the very talented orchestra puts in a good shift – excellent back-up to the singers.
It is difficult, but necessary, to pick out a downside to the musical, so here’s two.
During the dress rehearsal, which doubled as the press showing, there was a slight glitch with the subtitling machine, which was a tad distracting – but hopefully that will be ironed out before this evening.
Also, there is an ethical problem, in that the henchmen Ching Ho and Bun Foo not only get away scot-free after years of aiding and abetting a kidnapper, one of them gets a plum job and the other gets the girl.
All that aside, musical director Derek Calder and choreographer Amy Bryson have worked wonders in bringing it all together in a show that will please all fans of the original movie starring Julie Andrews, as well as those new to the story.
Indeed, you could be leaving the Victoria Halls with a Thoroughly Modern earworm.
It’s thoroughly brilliant.
The show begins its run this evening (Tuesday) at 7.30pm and runs nightly until Saturday, March 4 – when there is a matinee at 2.30pm.
Tickets, £12 adults, £10 concessions or £13 for table seats on the Saturday night, are available from the box office at Victoria Halls, or online at www.borderevents.com