Thoroughly Modern Millie reached Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre on its UK tour where hot-footing it into a major acting stage role is this year's Strictly Come Dancing professional winner, Joanne Clifton.
The stage show is based on the 1967 Oscar-winning film of the same name starring Julie Andrews and has won six Tony Awards in its own right, including best musical. So, it's a slick show with grand routines, a tight script and an endless array of glorious glittering 1920's flapper costumes.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is set in the Roaring Twenties when "modern" women are flooding into New York to find work and love while Charleston-ing the night away. This is where we find Millie, who is striving to be a thoroughly modern gal.
Strictly star Joanne Clifton plays Millie
It's very much a dance-based musical comedy with a jazz-fused soundtrack that heavily relies on big tap and group numbers. It makes Strictly Come Dancing's Joanne Clifton a perfect choice for the lead role as the fiesty, likeable heroine, Millie - both personality-wise and for her dancing ability.
She may be known so far for gaining the hearts of Strictly fans as the bubbly younger sister of dancer Kevin Clifton and winning the latest series with sports presenter Ore Oduba, but this tour shows she has more to offer.
What comes as a surprise is that Clifton can also sing and act, showing that she is an emerging triple threat in the theatre world.
Through various escapades and well-choreographed dance routines, we follow Millie as she gets a job – prompting an innovative tap dancing routine using typewriting desks with wheels – finds love and foils a white slavery kidnapping ring. It may be about shipping orphaned white women to a life of prostitution in Hong Kong, but it's all done in a thoroughly light-hearted way.
Sam Barrett as Millie's love interest Jimmy is well-matched in voice and dance for Clifton and there's a tenderness to their romantic scenes. Stealing the limelight after the interval , however, is seasoned actor Graham Macduff as her boss Trevor, who plays a fantastic drunk and added some ad hoc lines when someone sneezed, sending the rest of the cast and audience into giggles.
Former EastEnders actress Michelle Collins is another well-known name in the cast playing evil Mrs Meers, who kidnaps young women for the slave trade. Collins has been ramping up her theatre 'baddie' portfolio in recent years. Last year, she was also the crazy Baroness Bomburst for part of the UK tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang before a knee injury forced her to retire from the role early.
Collins plays it in over-the-top panto-style but is hampered by a very strange accent that makes her hard to understand. It was charming that her two Chinese sidekicks spoke and sang in Mandarin with English surtitles and maybe we needed the same for Collins too. I saw this show a couple of years ago when it came to Birmingham Hippodrome and Lesley Joseph was superb, but she was more sinister and quirky in the role.
Sam Barrett and Joanne Clifton have a good chemistry in the romantic scenes
What makes this an all-round entertaining show is that along with a pretty madcap story, there's strong dance routines and catchy songs (Not For The Life Of Me, Throughly Modern Millie and Jimmy are just a few). A party in a speak-easy bar is beautifully choreographed to combine Charleston and Tango and ends up in the jailhouse. It feels and sounds like the heady jazzy 1920's.
Jenny Fitzpatrick as Muzzy Van Hossmere also deserves a mention as she brings a lovely, deep voice to her songs as the socialite singer who gets caught up in events.
Jenny Fitzpatrick's voice shines as singer Muzzy Van Hossmere in Thoroughly Modern Millie