By Judy Wakefield
---- — Tap ‘til you drop is the motto this week at the Collins Center, where members of the Andover High School Drama Guild are perfecting their moves for their big flapper dance musical opening next week.
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” gets the nod for the Andover High School Drama Department’s fall musical and director Susan Choquette said it’s the first dance musical for the group since 2008’s “A Chorus Line.”
“We haven’t done a big tap musical in my tenure here,” said Choquette, who leads the Drama Department. “This one is silly and fun.”
Set in 1922, the play focuses on Millie Dillmount, a naive, young woman from Kansas who finds herself in the midst of a series of madcap adventures in New York City when she sets her sights on marrying her wealthy boss. Embracing the styles of the day, Millie becomes a flapper, bobbing her hair and wearing short skirts while dancing the night away at speakeasy clubs.
The show is based on the 1967 film starring Julie Andrews. It opened on Broadway in 2002, and was the recipient of 11 Tony nominations, winning six, including Best Musical and Best Actress for Sutton Foster.
The Andover High adaptation features a cast of 45 students presenting the show’s big ensemble production numbers that are heavy on song and tap dance.
Another 20-plus students have been assembled to run the technical side of things backstage and several director’s assistants are also helping with props, lights and other behind-the-scenes responsibilities.
Choquette credits costume coordinator Karen Spinale and her crew for lending their talents to designing the show’s “incredible” period outfits, which she said will transport audiences right back to the roaring ‘20s.
The sound track will also take theater-goers back with standard songs from the 1910s and 1920s mixed with music by contemporary artists, including Baby Face. Choquette said that given the challenging score, professional musicians have been summoned to fill the orchestra, with some students sitting in with them as well.
For the first time, Andover High School Drama Guild has teamed up with local restaurants to help promote the fall musical.
For three-plus weeks following the show, theater-goers may bring in their ticket stubs to participating restaurants and receive one free appetizer or dessert when they order an entree. The offer is good from Nov. 21 through Dec. 15.
Participating restaurants include Salvatore’s, Casa Blanca, Yella, Raagini, Mootone and Tokyo Steakhouse, with more businesses expected to be added to the list.
The restaurants are also promoting the musical with tent cards on their tables and advertising the show. Organizers of the promotion say it’s a win for everyone — increasing the audience for the musical, driving more traffic to the restaurants and providing patrons a tasty free “thank you” for coming to see the show.
If that’s not enough, Choquette said she has one more reason for people to join the audience for “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”
“You will leave the theater feeling better than when you went in,” she said.