Josh: Every year at Sweet Home, students invest hundreds of hours into a school musical. This year’s musical is Thoroughly Modern Millie, a 2002 musical based on a 60s’ movie with the same name, set in the New York of the Roaring 20s. This episode, we take a look.
From The Panther Eye, this is Roar.
Luke: Where, previously, before you came to the high school, where is it that you taught?
Mrs. Ross: So, I’ve had a really intersting career, but we’ll start with Sweet Home because that’s the most important thing. So before comng to the high school, I worked at Glendale Elementary for two years, but I was not a stranger to Sweet Home. I directed the middle school musical for seven years, so that’s been a real highlight. Before then, I taught in the City of Buffalo for four and a half years, I taught in Williamsville, and I taught in Clarence. But, before I directed the musicals here at Sweet Home, I directed Cheektowaga High Schools’ musicals for four years, and their middle school musicals. So I’ve been teaching for thirteen years, this is my thirteenth year, lucky number thirteen, on Friday the 13th, but I am new to Sweet Home, this is only going into my third year.
Luke: What is the pile of music? How is it set in regards to time period and does the music reflect that?
Mrs. Ross: Yeah, so Thoroughly Modern Millie is set in 1922, so we are in the time of the Roaring 20s and we will see costumes that reflect that. Flappers, bright colors, and short bobbed hair, tap dancing, and very exciting music.
Luke: And why would you say this musical was chosen?
Mrs. Ross: Well when selecting a show, there’s a lot that you take into account. One of those things is what shows have they done most recently. So I always like to think of, when my seniors were freshmen, what has their theatre experience been since they’ve been here and what do I need to fill in, gaps, before they leave. So that is one thing I take into account when picking a style or genre of musical.
Another thing I take into account is who I have. So, as much as we don’t pick a musical for any particular student or group of students, we have to look at what talent we have, because, like, I couldn’t pick a show that we need, let’s say, twenty-five male leads if we don’t have twenty-five male leads, so I have to always consider who I have and the strenghts of those people. Um, since I’ve directed a musical at the middle school for the last seven years I know this freshman class very well. And, in fact, um, the seniors now were in the musical when they were in the middle school. So knowing many of them very, very well already, I can take a look at what talent I have and what show would best fit those particular kids.
Chudy: What genre would you say most of the music is?
Mrs. Ross: It’s ragtime, it’s jazz, it’s big band.
Luke: Will the Sweet Home High musical be competing in the local Kenny Awards?
Mrs Ross: Well, the Kenny Awards are a very complicated process. So the first step in that is filling out an applicaiton. After you fill out a very intense application, you have to go meet for an interview with the judging panel. Um, they then decide the finalist. So the application is due October 4th, the interviews for the Kennys are October 7th and by the 14th, they know who the finalists are. So it’s a very quick process and it is a scholarship. They do award a very large monetary prize, so they’re looking for a school that has those particular needs. Who might need that. So I don’t know if we will complete, I will say I am putting in an application and I will go on the interview and we’ll take it from there.
Luke: In regards to the musical, is there any aspect of it that’s abnormally more challenging than another musical. Like, what is the bi g gimmick, if you will, of Thoroughly Modern Millie?
Mrs. Ross: Thoroughly Modern Millie is an extremely challenging show. It is hard and the thing that makes it really hard is the dance. There’s a lot of dance in this show, particularly, what makes it unike, tap dancing. So our students wil be tapping on that stage and we have a lot of really good techniques.
Luke: As a new teacher, I know it is a lot to live up to in regards to the previous choral director, so we’re very greatful that you’re here and you stepped up.
Mrs. Ross: It’s a big job but I’m ready for it.
Luke: What kind of experience do you think it will bring for both the students who are in and not in the musical?
Mrs. Ross: So I think it’s wildly entertaining. It’s big, it’s bright, it’s fun, it’s full of energy, so anybody watching it is going to love the energy. I think what also is exciting about it is that the themese are comical. She moves from a small town to the big city to take on being in Broadway, and the first thing that happens to her when she steps on the street is she gets mugged. And then after she gets mugged, she runs into a guy, literally runs into, trips him and falls onto the ground. And she falls in love with him instantaneously, because he’s rich and so, she was like, “I want to marry a rich guy in New York City.” And it’s just that the themes are so larger than life, just like the whole show, almost comical and unrealistic and I think the people that watch it will be thouroughly entertained. But for the kids that are in it, it’s a lot of energy for them, I think they’re gonna have to increase their show stamina big time and carrying that throughout. I think that they’re going to love how fun the show is and as Tony Day said in Opening Day, “let’s just have fun this year.” And I think that this is gonna add to that big fun this year.
Chudy: Is the main lead for this show going to be a male lead or a female lead?
Mrs. Ross: There are a lot of female leads, Millie, the show is Thoroughly Modern Millie, MIllie is a female. Jimmy, the guy she falls in love with, is obvoiusly a male. There is, probably, I would say, five male roles and probably fifteen female roles. It’s a very girl heavy show because that is where my talent pool is at this point.
Chudy: What would you say to students who will later be considering whether to come and see this show or not?
Mrs. Ross: I know it’s not a show that everybody knows, it’s not been overdone, and that’s because it’s hard. Okay, so not every show can do this show. And if you’re considering whether to come or not based on whether or not they know the show, I encourage them to come and see the show because it’s amazing. But it’s not popular only because it’s really hard. So it’s not really done as often. So I’m hoping they want to see their peers having a great time and have a great night of entertainment. It’s a really wonderful show that they may not get the chance to see very often.
Chudy: Is there any song in the soundtrack that really stands out to you?
Mrs. Ross: Sure, there’s a really fun song, the big tap number, “Forget About the Boy“. Because, she’s getting some advice from the woman whom she works for and she’s saying, “I’m just stuck on this guy, I can’t get him out of my head.” And she’s like, “forget about him”, and it turns into this explosvie tap number that tears down the roof. And it was just featured on the Tonys not that long ago. They did it and it was really fasntstic.
Josh: This episode of Roar was made by Josh Seyse, Luke Shriver, Chudy Ilozue, and Jacob Lymberopoulos. Music by Universal Pictures and King’s Ridge Christian School and sung by Julie Andrews and Emma Elizabeth Smith.
Luke Schriver is a senior at Sweet Home High School and is an author for The Panther Eye. As a freshman, he aided in getting the Eye off the ground, but then took a 2-year coffee break. Having now returned, Luke, with his connections to the music wing as well as his love for creative writing, plans to employ the aspects of his passions and skills to write articles and short stories in the category of the arts.