Rajah Maggay, Staff Writer
The charming and humorous musical Thoroughly Modern Millie might seem like pure entertainment. But behind the spectacular tap numbers and fantastic music, there’s a lot of substance to this stylish show. It explores the ethics of ambition, the hidden-in-plain-sight world of human trafficking, and the intricacies of finding yourself and discovering love in the roaring 20s. The story follows small-town girl Millie Dillmount, who is trying to make it big matrimonially in the Big Apple, and the various obstacles that get in her way. The production transcends time period to deliver insight and emotional truth to today’s audience.
In our drama department’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie (running December 9th-11th), Sarah Dickson, Julia Stanski and Jocelyn Bartolome star as three unique female characters.
Rajah Maggay: So let’s start this off by asking your names, ages and grades.
Jocelyn Bartolome: Well, I’ m Jocelyn Bartolome, I am in grade twelve and my age is sixteen.
Sarah Dickson: Sarah Dickson, grade twelve, seventeen.
Julia Stanski: Julia Stanski, grade twelve, seventeen.
Okay! So you all have very different roles, especially when you compare them. Give a brief description of your role, without giving anything away.
SD: I play Millie, a young woman who’s naïve in the ways of the world. She comes to New York from Kansas, it’s her first time in the big city and she has this idea that she’s going to marry somebody rich because that’s apparently what a modern woman does.
JB: I play the antagonist, Mrs. Meers, an old white lady posing as a Chinese person for reasons to be revealed later.
JS: I play Miss Dorothy, a rich girl who decides that she wants to try being poor like everybody else. So she goes to New York to become an actress.
Now, why did you guys want to be involved with this production?
JB: Well, I was in the play in grade ten because I wanted to meet people and it sounded like fun, and I wanted to continue my acting career this year.
SD: It’s kind of because of these two that I got into drama in the middle of grade ten. I thought I wouldn’t like it at first, but they proved me wrong and they remind me of it every day, especially now. This year in particular I wanted to be a part of it because I already knew of the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie and I love it. Musical theatre combines two things I’ve really learned to love throughout high school. Also, the best friends I have are from the drama community.
JS: I’ve been in the show for the past two years; I’m super big on drama and I love all theatre-related things. Millie has been one of my favourite shows since I was, like, five. I love this show so much and drama has become the whole reason for going to school the first half of the year. Being in this show and having rehearsal just makes life a thousand times better.
SD: We always joke that school is just the vehicle to get to rehearsal.
You guys all got exactly the roles you really wanted; how did you all react when you found out?
JB: Okay, man! This is like the best story ever! We were all texting each other, like, a full hour before the cast list came out. So we all agreed that we wouldn’t spoil it for each other. I was literally just sitting in from of my laptop waiting.
SD: When it finally came out, we kind of waited about ten minutes to make sure everyone saw it for themselves first.
JB: And we were so discreet, first we all texted each other things like, “Have you seen it?” or “Did you check?” No one would understand the context of our text messages except for the three of us.
SD: So once it finally came out and we realized we’d all seen it and all gotten what we wanted—I’m not going to lie, I danced around my kitchen. For the past hour I’d just been pacing back and forth, thinking of all the homework that wasn’t going to get done because of this.
JS: I was shocked; I cried. I’d never cried with happiness before.
JB: Our own individual reactions did not reflect what was written in our coded text messages.
JS: It was like the best day ever.
SD: It was really great to be able to be so happy for yourself, but also for your friends.
Aww! Now what is your favourite thing about each of your characters?
JB: My character is kind of really difficult to play, but—I don’t know. I like the challenge of it.
SD: Definitely with Millie, she’s such a big part; it’s a big step up for me in the drama hierarchy. Like Jocelyn said, I like the challenge of it, but I also love how Millie’s a really down-to-earth girl who knows what she wants, and she’s a really strong independent woman.
JS: I love how Dorothy is kind of clueless about the real world and she just floats through life like a Disney princess.
What are some challenges you’ve faced so far with doing this show?
JS: Well, time management has been a big challenge. It’s really hard to fit in all the homework and the studying with rehearsals.
SD: And it’s definitely hard to find time to practice your songs and practice your lines. Plus then there’s the whole university thing looming over us. Keeping up with school and staying focused has been pretty hard; sometimes during class I’ll just be doing my tap solo under my desk.
JB: Balancing school has definitely been one of the challenges. And I’m probably going to stop acting after this year, and that in itself is kind of hard to think about. Also: Learning to put in contacts!
SD: Just the responsibility of being in grade twelve, being a leader and not wanting to let anybody down, especially yourself, is hard. Of course there’s the pressure of not wanting to let down the wonderful people who are involved with the show, the cast and all your friends, but also not wanting to let yourself down and to just keep going.
JS: Even just accepting the size of it feels crazy sometimes. It’s such an amazing blessing to get this awesome role, but for me anyway, it brings out insecurities. If you start thinking about how big it is, you sometime start thinking ‘This is huge, I can’t do this, I’m not good enough’. You really have to learn to trust yourself, and that’s hard.
What sort of person is going to like this show?
JB: I will make you laugh!
SD: The great thing is that Millie was originally a movie in the 1960s with Julie Andrews, so older generations will know it. People who are absolute Broadway geeks know that Sutton Foster was the original Millie and that this was her breakout role. And people who generally don’t like theatre sometimes love musical theatre.
JS: It’s musical theatre; it doesn’t take itself too seriously. But there’s still substance to it; it’s not a total fluff show. It has some meaning.
Without giving anything away, what is your favourite line in the entire show?
JB: “Sad to be all alone in the world.”
SD: “Who cares? I’ve found myself a green glass love.”
JS: “Don’t you read the tabloids? I find they really capture the flavour of the huddled masses.”
Who is the most like their character, and who is the least like their character?
JB: I think Julia’s a lot like her character.
SD: I agree, Julia can be quite like Miss Dorothy. In some of the scenes between Millie and Dorothy, they basically just sound like our normal conversations, just in the 1920s. For the least like their character I don’t know; Jocelyn’s like her character in that she likes to dive into being a different person. She has the same dramatic persona that Mrs. Meers has; she’s just not evil.
What are rehearsals like for you guys seeing as you guys are the three female leads?
SD: Rehearsals for us usually start with a warm-up; then it depends with what we’re working on that day. We’re either doing scene work, vocals or working on dance routines.
JB: There’s a lot of laughing in rehearsals, and I can never really take myself seriously. But once you’re performing it’s a whole different thing.
SD: The process of making a musical is something you will never fully understand unless you are actually a part of it. Like Ms. Williams says, musical theatre is one of the hardest things in the world, and other people just don’t recognize that. A lot goes into this production; not just the actors, but creating the set, costumes, music… There are so many people who are somehow part of this show, from all different parts of the school, and they all come together to make something incredible. The community is great.
So we’ve finally reached the last question: Who would you say is the funniest person in the cast?
SD: There are different levels of funny in our cast. Martina is hilarious.
JB: Elaine just makes everyone laugh; she’s great.
JS: Everyone is adorable and hilarious.