Excitement is already filling the hallways and classrooms of Ferndale High Schools as the award winning theater department readies another in a long line of incredible student productions.
Years past have brought us classics like The Sound of Music, and The Music Man — with each year’s ensemble cast impressing with their diverse array of talents. This year, Ferndale High is tackling Thoroughly Modern Millie, a musical about a small-town girl from Kansas named Millie Dillmount who comes to New York City to marry for money instead of love. Millie soon begins to enjoy the “flapper” lifestyle, checks into a hotel, and trouble and mischief quickly begin.
The musical is “flashy and colorful, with lots of dancing,” says Judy Donlin, the highly respected producer who helps bring Ferndale High’s shows to life. “It’s just very, very entertaining.” Donlin is working side-by-side with Melissa Smith, who is acting as director for Thoroughly Modern Millie, to insure that the production is another smash hit. Based on a book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan, the show opened on Broadway in 2002 and went on to win six Tony awards including Best Musical and Best Performance by a Leading Actress (won by Michigan-native Sutton Foster).
Taking over the lead role in the Ferndale High School production is senior Samantha Berger. A veteran of the Ferndale High Theater, Berger is excited about the chance to play the lead role.
“[The production is] theatrical, modern, and it’s the biggest dance production we have ever done,” Berger said.
Samantha’s character leads the well-known opening number “Not for the Life of Me,” and continues to flavor the show with a variety of song-and-dance numbers. The ensemble cast features a large number of talented Ferndale High Students including David Burk (playing Millie’s love interest Trevor Grayton II), Joanna Gaden, Angel Morales, McKenna Voss, and Grace Wilson (playing the Priscilla Girls), and many others.
Along with the great student talent and vision of Donlin and Smith, many dedicated people use their time and energy to make these productions some of the best in the state. Kim and Ken Schroeder work hard to help the students learn the challenging melodies and complexities of the music. Jan Whinham choreographs the performances (an important task for a musical that brought home the Tony for Best Choreography) and has been working with stu- dents on tap dancing rehearsal since October. Carol Digby is the master seamstress who creates each and every article of clothing worn on stage, and the husband and wife team of Jim and Liz Pfleger design the sets and facilitate the props, respectively. Books are kept by Tom Jaksa, who helps to ensure the financials are balanced and the production is able to acquire all items needed. All of these people make up the “really dedicated group of adults who are tireless in their work, much of which is also volunteered,” Donlin said.
Another wonderful addition to the upcoming production is the chance to premiere it in the newly remodeled Ferndale High School theater. Using money from a bond passed in 2012, the theater’s stage equipment, sound system, theatrical lighting and rigging system, curtains, stage access, acoustical wall treatments, and projection booth have all been updated and modernized.
Donlin is encouraging the community to come out and see the results of the bond they voted on. The show is sure to be “a nice evening out and [guests will] leave having had a great time,” Donlin said. With such a talented cast, dedicated crew, and impressive venue, Thoroughly Modern Millie is primed to be yet another in a long line of incredible productions from Ferndale High.
Thoroughly Modern Millie runs the weekends of March 22nd and March 28th. For tickets or information you can visit the box office, online at http://fhsmusical.bpt.me, or call 248-586-8609. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for seniors or students (with valid ID).
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