Musical fun with fads and flappers in La Jolla High’s ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’
By Emily DeRuy
When Ann Boutelle, director of the theater department at La Jolla High School, decided to involve her advanced drama students in the selection of the next school play, she didn’t anticipate they’d want to tackle one of the trickiest musicals around. But that is exactly what her department has been doing for countless hours over the last several months.
Since January, Boutelle and about 60 students have been working on a production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” a musical with 28 scene changes, dozens of costumes, and a dizzying array of song and dance numbers.
“We were going to do another one,” she said. “But, I opened it up to my students and this was a favorite. It’s one of the biggest musicals you can produce.”
Based on the 1967 movie featuring Julie Andrews, Millie tells the story of a young woman as she makes her way to New York City in the early 1920s in search of a more exciting, modern life. The musical explores the Flapper era, a time when the rules of love and acceptable conduct were in flux.
Featuring rousing jazz numbers and complicated dance routines, Boutelle says Millie provides the perfect opportunity to showcase the talent at La Jolla High. Katheryne Penny, the senior who plays Millie, has been in a number of other plays and musicals.
“Penny is a very well-trained singer, actor and dancer,” said Boutelle. “She’s just phenomenal. And Mona Maruyama, who plays the antagonist, Mrs. Meers, and Hallie Bodenstab, who plays Miss Dorothy, both have extraordinary singing voices. Maddy Harvey provides comic relief with impeccable timing. I did the musical because of these girls’ voices. The show’s just chalk full of extraordinary talent.”
Those working behind the scenes, from the tech students who make up the set crew to parents and other volunteers, have helped with everything from painting scenery to coaching the actors.
“I’d really like to send a great thanks to all the people who have helped pull this together,” said Boutelle. “Former La Jolla High theater teacher, Walt Stewart, my husband Andy, Beth Penny, Diana Ruggerio and Katherine Ward.”
Ward, the costume director, has worked hard to ensure the costumes stay true to the time period – with a few twists thrown in for fun.
She has mixed dropped-waist flapper dresses with pieces from today that draw inspiration from the Roaring Twenties, to create a fun, colorful look. The La Jolla Playhouse, where Millie first premiered, offered to loan costumes from their production to the high school, as well.
The students have also received vocal coaching from Diana Ruggerio, who coached the original Millie — Broadway star Sutton Foster. Foster, a Tony Award-winning actress, has played Millie both at the La Jolla Playhouse and on Broadway.
La Jolla High School’s production will run for two weekends in March. Boutelle encourages the community to come to the performances and support the school.
“The show is uplifting and will make everyone happy,” she said. “It’s just wonderful and great fun. The students have poured their time and energy into this. I’m very proud of them.”
If you go
What: La Jolla High School’s ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’
Where: Parker Auditorium, 750 Nautilus St.
When: 7 p.m. March 3, 4, 5 and March 10; 2 p.m. March 12 and 13
Tickets at the door: $10-$15
Reservations: (858) 454-3081 ext. 4402
Millie: Katheryne Penny
Jimmie Smith: Issac Brieske
Trevor Graydon: Trevor Menders
Miss Dorothy: Hallie Bodenstab
Mrs. Meers: Mona Maruyama
Muzzy Van Hossmere: Jolie Lepselter
Miss Flannery: Maddy Harvey
Bun Foo: Brierna Avila
Chingo Ho: Lachezar Nikolov
Dancers: Savannah Visser, Andrea Nathan, Maddy Harvey, Hannah Orr, Hallie Bodenstab, Trevor Menders and Katheryne Penny
Chorus: Ashley Stratton, Hannah Orr, Chantal Gish, Tatiana Santos, Amy Guerts, Lexi Chipman, Nicci Jardin, Sara Phelps, Andrea Nathan, Jaco Beneducci, Brendan Hickman, Savannah Visser
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