Drama and music students at Brookswood Secondary are preparing to bring the hit musical Thoroughly Modern Millie to the stage from Feb. 11 to 21. Back row from left: Taylor Brathwaite as Alice and Brett Dick as Jimmy Smith; front row from left: Kaitlyn Santa Juana as Millie Dillmount, Caprice Eldridge as Gloria, Carson Miller as Dexter/ensemble and Kaho Furukawa (ensemble).

Drama and music students at Brookswood Secondary are preparing to bring the hit musical Thoroughly Modern Millie to the stage from Feb. 11 to 21. Back row from left: Taylor Brathwaite as Alice and Brett Dick as Jimmy Smith; front row from left: Kaitlyn Santa Juana as Millie Dillmount, Caprice Eldridge as Gloria, Carson Miller as Dexter/ensemble and Kaho Furukawa (ensemble).

Modern times at Brookswood Secondary

Langley high school's theatre and music students jazzed to present hit Broadway show, Thoroughly Modern Millie Feb. 11-21

Same place, different time.

Hard on the heels of last year’s song and dance production, In the Heights, Brookswood drama and music students invite you to join them as they return to the Big Apple.

This time, they’re heading for the Jazz Age, when “modern” women were bobbing their hair, raising their hemlines, entering the workforce, and rewriting the rules of love.

Thoroughly Modern Millie hits the stage at Brookswood Secondary from Feb. 11 to 21.

Telling the story of Millie Dillmount a young woman from Kansas who decides to make a new life for herself in the big city during the Roaring ’20s, Thoroughly Modern Millie is “a great, fun, bright, jazzy show,” filled with “fun and hummable” music, said drama teacher Sheri Eyre, who took over the high school theatre department this year from longtime instructor Sharon Conrad.

All the catchy tunes will be brought to life by a 14-piece student orchestra, led by music instructor and co-director Gordon Hamilton.

Few of the students in the cast of 24 had even heard of the play before it was announced, said Eyre.

But they loved the music immediately and quickly embraced the opportunity to dress up in period costume and to get a sense of what life was like when telegrams were the equivalent of a  smart phone.

Choosing which show to mount as the school’s big musical of the year depends largely on the talent pool from which they can draw, explained Eyre.

“Who do we have in our roster? What character do they fit?”

Typically, she said, she looks for productions that feature good strong female roles, because it’s an unfortunate fact that far more girls than boys tend to gravitate toward the performing arts in high school.

This year, the presence of two strong female performers, both in Grade 12, as well as a pair of young actors who were more than capable of taking on lead male roles, led them to Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Of course, when it comes to putting on a play at a high school level, there’s more to consider than how to cast it.

Part of the storyline of Thoroughly Modern Millie includes young women being sold from their hotel to a slavery ring  in China.

“We’ve tried downplaying the human trafficking side of things,”  laughed Eyre.

One thing she does want audiences to focus on, however, is the young actress in the lead role.

For Kaitlyn Santa Juana, who appeared last year as Nina in 2014’s In the Heights and now plays Millie Dillmount, life will somewhat imitate art as the Grade 12 student heads to New York this spring for a callback audition at NYU.

The school has a strong theatre program and it’s among Santa Juana’s top picks for her post secondary education, said Eyre.

Santa Juana first auditioned for a role in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee four years ago when she was in Grade 9.

“She opens her mouth and this really lovely voice comes out,” recalled Eyre, who started as a student teacher that year under Conrad.

“She’s going places, that girl.”

Before she goes, Langley audiences will have several chances to see and hear Santa Juana and the rest of the cast and orchestra over the next two weeks.

Thoroughly Modern Millie runs Feb. 11-14 and 18-21 at Brookswood Secondary 20902 37A Ave. Doors open at 6:30, curtain rises at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 and may be purchased online at brownpapertickets.com.