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Step back in time for laughs and tap dance
Upbeat Modern Millie serves as comedic relief during tough economic times
Allie Payton, left, and Tess Malis Kincaid star in "Thoroughly Modern Millie," on stage through Nov. 22 at Brenau University. - photo by Tom Reed

‘Thoroughly Modern Millie'

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Nov. 15 and Nov. 18-22, 2:30 p.m. Nov. 16 and 22

Where: Hosch Theatre at Brenau University, 429 Academy St., Gainesville

How much: $18-$22 for adults, $16-$20 for seniors age 65 and older, $14-$16 for students

More info: 678-717-3624

Millie Dillmount has it all planned out: She'll move from her small town in Kansas to the Big Apple, embark on her career as an actress while working a steady job as a secretary - and getting her boss to fall in love with her, too.

The plan sounds good until she lands in New York City and is promptly robbed of everything, including her shoe. But Millie finds a way to pull herself up by her flapping shoe strap (hence, the name for the infamous flappers of the 1920s) and make the best of tough times.

And "Thoroughly Modern Millie," the newest production from the Gainesville Theatre Alliance, is well timed to give audiences an uplifting comedy that combats the country's current economic woes.

"It's interesting how this story has surfaced when we most needed to smile and laugh and believe that tomorrow is going to be better, and it's certainly going to be one of those times right now," said director Jim Hammond, the Theatre Alliance's artistic director and theater professor at Gainesville State College. "This theatrical event by no means solves the wolds's problems, but it gives us the tools to go out and live life with more courage.

"It's just a great, fun night."

Set in the 1920s just before the Great Depression, "Thoroughly Modern Millie" debuted on Broadway just after 9/11 to rave reviews, and the original Millie, an actress from Augusta, won the Tony Award that year for Best Actress in a Musical.

GTA's version has just as much singing, dancing and toe-tapping clacking as the ladies who work with Millie in the office tap dance in typewriter rhythm. The production features professional actress Tess Malis Kincaid, an Atlanta-based actress known for her work with the Georgia Ensemble Theatre and the Alliance Theatre, and was choreographed by David Rossetti, who recently served as choreographer associate for the national tour of "Hairspray."

Millie and her friends are all looking for stardom but also looking for Mr. Right - while trying to make ends meet.

And that's something the student actresses who play these characters can identify with.

"I think it's really fascinating being in the world of the play because we're going through the economic crisis right now," said Casey Mcleroy, a Brenau University student who plays Millie's friend Ruth. "My dad just had to get a second job and he's never had to do that. It really hit a lot closer to home."

Because Mcleroy said she now has to pay attention to every penny she spends - whether it's on food or gas or rent - she's been able to get a better sense of her character, who has to struggle to make ends meet. But at the same time, Ruth is young and wants to enjoy life.

"I have to pay rent and I have to have gas and I have to have groceries, and everything costs more," she said. "And it helps my character, because I understand how everyone needed that release, how desperately they needed that one night to just go out."

Gainesville State College student Tiffany Small, who also portrays one of Millie's co-workers, agreed that the musical is a great stress reliever for both the cast and the audiences.

"The community really needs something like this, when we have an election ... and the economic state," she said. Director Hammond, she said, "wanted to do something really lighthearted and fun and just a release."