HOLDEN, Mass. — The Theater Company at Wachusett Regional High School will present its Spring Musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie" this weekend, and residents are invited to come enjoy the rollicking romp back to the roaring twenties.
Director LeeAnn Hedberg said this year's show was selected partly because the school has a lot of strong singers, and the musical has around seven solos or duets for different characters.
"We have a really talented group of kids — singers and actors," she said. "I think it will be really entertaining. It's a little bit about a girl going out and seeking a fortune and figuring out that true love is more important than money, but it's mostly really fun."
"This show is probably one of my favorites," said Owen McCarthy, who plays the role of wealthy boss Trevor Graydon. "It's not one many people may have heard of, but I think that adds a lot to the fun of it. We're hoping it will appeal to everyone."
Set in 1922, the play follows the adventures of Millie (Kelly Letourneau), a young woman who moves to the city with nothing to lose and aspires to fulfill her "thoroughly modern" goal of marring a millionaire. Yet not only does she soon find herself torn between her wealthy boss Mr. Graydon and the rakish but likable salesman Jimmy Smith, but Millie also discovers an underground slave trade run by her landlord, Mrs. Meers (Sarah Becker), and must find a way to rescue the kidnapped tenants.
Though times have changed significantly since the twenties, the young actors found ways to relate to the characters the played.
"Tapping into the story has been really easy for me, because in the first scene of the story, Millie moves to New York from a small town," said Letourneau, who explained that next year she plans on studying musical theater, and has already been accepted to Emerson College.
"It's my dream to someday move to New York, so I kind of tapped into that big dreamer mentality," she said.
Stephen Keimig, who takes on the role of Jimmy Smith in the musical, added that "it's kind of fun to take a character that you read about in the script, and then you sort of play with that character for three months and try to find a quirky way of adding yourself in that people can relate to."
In taking on the challenging role of the nefarious Asian landlord, Mrs. Meers, "Sarah Becker plays the epitome of a great show villain," said McCarthy. "You find yourself loving her more than you can hate her."
Even with the subject of white slavery in the story, the light-hearted musical gives the young cast of an actors plenty of opportunities to flex their comedic muscles.
"The play has so many humorous qualities, there are so many little jokes here and there," said Keimig.
Additionally, the actors also enjoyed the chance to travel back to the 1920's and slip into their various roles as tycoons, flappers and jazz babies.
"The 1920's was a great era," said Letourneau. "It's been a lot of fun, I mean, if you look at the movies that are out right now, like 'The Artist', I think the 1920's might be making a comeback style-wise. I bobbed my hair for the show, and I just sort of fully immersed myself into the 1920's mindset."
"It was surreal," Keimig added. "Because through the different costumes you could see how society has changed and how culture has changed. It makes it more real and makes it come alive."
Auditions were held in December, and since then students have devoted countless hours after-school to prepare for the musical, from learning choreography for tap dance scenes, building set pieces like the working revolving door and, of course, learning their lines right down to a "T".
Furthermore, behind the scenes, students not only helped to transform the stage into a jazz age New York City, but the crew has also had to choreograph getting the set pieces in and out in the short intervals between scenes.
"It's been three months to the date almost, and it's been non-stop work from everyone involved. Everyone has put a piece of themselves into this play, which is why it's going to be so much fun to perform," said McCarthy.
"It's like our little three-month baby," added Keimig. "Instead of taking nine months, we take three months, and now it's fun to put on the show and see your little baby grow up."
Yet with a few more dress rehearsals and days until opening night, the cast is still working hard to perfect the performance, even "until the last second," according to McCarthy.
"But it doesn't feel like work," added Keimig. "Then when the lights go on you go, 'oh this is it' and then the curtain comes up, your mind goes blank, and you just do it."
Shows are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students and senior citizens and $5 for children under 12. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance at the main office at Wachusett Regional High School.