Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Darren Lee, Francis Jue, Tari Kelly, Beth Leavel and Leslie Uggams set for MUNY’s Thoroughly Modern Millie, June 18 – 24

The Muny’s 94th season kicks off with Thoroughly Modern Millie, directed by Marc Bruni and choreographed by Chris Bailey, and starring Broadway veteran Tari Kelly as Millie Dillmount, Tony Award winner Beth Leavel as Mrs. Meers, and legendary performer Leslie Uggams reprising her Broadway role of Muzzy. Also appearing are Andrew Samonsky as Jimmy, Megan McGinnis as Miss Dorothy, Stephen Buntrock as Trevor Graydon, Francis Jue as Ching Ho, Darren Lee as Bun Foo and Tory Ross as Miss Flannery.

Darren Lee (Photo by Lia Chang)

Darren Lee (Photo by Lia Chang)


Based on the 1967 film by Richard Morris, Thoroughly Modern Millie has a book by Jeanine Tesori and new lyrics by Dick Scanlan. Millie tells the story of a small-town girl, Millie Dillmount, who comes to New York City to marry for money instead of love – a thoroughly modern aim in 1922, when women were just entering the workforce.

The production features scenic design by Sam and Steve Gilliam, sound design by Jason Krueger, lighting design by Seth Jackson and costume coordination by Tracy Christensen. Michael Horsley serves as the musical director, and the production stage manager is Peter Hynds.

Francis Jue © Lia Chang

Francis Jue © Lia Chang

Francis Jue (Ching Ho) returns to The Muny, where he has appeared in The Little Mermaid, Damn Yankees, Miss Saigon, Peter Pan, The King & I,and Mame. On Broadway, Francis originated the role of Bun Foo in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Other Broadway credits: M. Butterfly and Pacific Overtures. Francis won Obie and Lucille Lortel Awards (plus Drama Desk and Drama League nominations) for Yellow Face. Other favorite NYC credits include Love’s Labour’s Lost, Coraline, Falsettoland, A Language of Their Own, No Foreigners Beyond This Point, Hamlet,and King Lear. Francis has won regional theatre awards for In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), Cabaret, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Into the Woods, The Illusion, Pacific Overtures, Miss Saigon,and Red. TV: “The Good Wife,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Law & Order.” Film Debut: Joyful Noise. Francis Jue, At Home on the Stage
David Henry Hwang as D.H.H. and Francis Jue as H.Y.H. in a scene from Yellow Face at WNYC’s The Greene Space in New York on May 7, 2012, courtesy New York Public Radio. © 2012 Lia Chang

David Henry Hwang as D.H.H. and Francis Jue as H.Y.H. in a scene from Yellow Face
at WNYC’s The Greene Space in New York on May 7, 2012, courtesy New York Public Radio. © 2012 Lia Chang


Darren Lee

Darren Lee


Darren Lee (Bun Foo) began his career at age 11 as a contestant on “Jr. Star Search.” Shortly thereafter he became a series regular on “Kids Incorporated,” a Disney Channel favorite. In the years following he appeared in a variety of national commercials, television shows, and feature films such as Hackers, playing a role (Razor) opposite Angelina Jolie. He also danced alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renée Zellweger in the Academy Award-winning film Chicago. By the early ’90s, Lee relocated to New York and performed in Chicago, Guys and Dolls, and in the original companies of Shogun the Musical, Miss Saigon, Victor/Victoria with Julie Andrews, Kiss Me Kate, On the Town, Seussical the Musical, Pacific Overtures, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. After 18 years as a Broadway performer, Darren refocused his energies on directing and choreography. His Broadway work includes associate choreographer on Pacific Overtures, and other New York productions including: History of War (NYMF), Heading East starring BD Wong (Asia Society), Bronx Express (Fringe Festival), Andy Warhol Was Right (NYMF) and Stephen Sondheim’s 75th Birthday Celebration (New Amsterdam). Most recently, Lee served as director/choreographer for Wishes, which premiered on the brand new Disney Cruise Line ship The Fantasy in March of 2012 and reprised his work on Herringbone with BD Wong at Dixon Place in New York.
Choreographer Darren Lee rehearses a number from Herringbone with BD Wong at Dixon Place in New York on May 22, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

Choreographer Darren Lee rehearses a number from Herringbone with BD Wong at Dixon Place in New York on May 22, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

Tari Kelly (Millie Dillmount) was most recently in the Tony® Award winning revival of Anything Goes on Broadway where she understudied and performed the role of Reno Sweeney over 50 times. Other Broadway/national tour credits include Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey), Cabaret (Sally Bowles), Show Boat (Ellie), The Boy From Oz (Trio, u/s Liza Minnelli), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Mama Who) and Beauty and the Beast (Silly Girl, u/s Babette). Some of her favorite regional credits are Anything Goes (Reno Sweeney -2011 Carbonell Award Winner), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Millie – Jeff Award Nomination), Once Upon a Mattress (Winnifred), Chicago (Velma Kelly) and White Christmas (Judy Haynes). Additionally, she can be heard on the original cast recordings of The Boy From Oz and Anything Goes.

Beth Leavel (Mrs. Meers) was last seen at The Muny as Miss Hannigan in Annie in 2009. She received Tony, Drama Desk, NY Outer Critics Circle and L.A. Drama Critics Awards for her performance as the title character in The Drowsy Chaperone. Beth also received a Tony®, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle nomination for her role as Florence Greenberg in Baby It’s You. She recently performed the role of M’Lynn in Steel Magnolias at the North Carolina Theatre and the much put upon maid, Berthe, in Boeing-Boeing at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Other Broadway roles include Emily in Elf, Donna in Mamma Mia!, Frau Blücher in Young Frankenstein, Dorothy Brock in the revival of 42nd Street, Tess in the original company of Crazy For You, Mrs.Bixby in The Civil War, Ellie in Hal Prince’s Showboat, and Anytime Annie (her Broadway debut) in 42nd Street. Ms. Leavel was also seen in New York City Center Encores! production of No, No, Nanette as Lucille. Numerous Off-Broadway, regional theatre, commercials, and TV, including the final episode of “ER.”

Leslie Uggams (Photo by Lia Chang)

Leslie Uggams (Photo by Lia Chang)


Leslie Uggams (Muzzy) is a Tony® and Emmy® Award-winning actress and singer whose career has brought her from Harlem (Uptown) to Broadway (Downtown), the big screen (Skyjacked) to television (“The Leslie Uggams Show”). Perhaps best known for her stirring portrayal of “Kizzy” in the landmark TV mini-series Alex Haley’s “Roots” (Critics Choice Award, Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominations), Ms. Uggams has performed to critical and popular acclaim ever since her first professional appearances at the age of nine at the famed Apollo Theater. There she opened for such musical legends as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington. On Broadway, Ms. Uggams made her stunning musical theater debut starring in Hallelujah, Baby!, earning both Tony® and Theater World Awards. Since then she has starred on Broadway in Blues in the Night, Her First Roman, Jerry’s Girls, Anything Goes, King Headley II, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and most recently On Golden Pond opposite James Earl Jones.

Andrew Samonsky (Jimmy) played Lieutenant Joseph Cable in Lincoln Center’s Tony® Award winning production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, where he was also seen on the Live From Lincoln Center PBS broadcast. He recently received a Drama Desk nomination for the role of Frank Russell in Michael John LaChiusa’s Queen of the Mist off-Broadway. This last year he was seen in New York City Center’s Merrily We Roll Along, and originated roles in James Lapine and William Finn’s Little Miss Sunshine at The La Jolla Playhouse, and the Scissor Sisters’ Tales of the City at A.C.T. You can hear him on the cast recordings of Merrily We Roll Along, Queen of the Mist, and Disney’s On The Record.

Megan McGinnis (Miss Dorothy) returns to Thoroughly Modern Millie, having performed in the Broadway company for a year. Other Broadway credits include Lés Misérables (Eponine), Little Women (Beth), Beauty and the Beast (Belle), Diary of Anne Frank, and Parade. She has appeared in the tours of Daddy Long Legs (LA Ovation Award, Chicago Jeff Nomination, Cincinnati Acclaim Award), Fiddler on the Roof (Hodel), The Sound of Music (Liesl), and James Joyce’s The Dead (Lily). Film/TV credits include: Anywhere But Here; A Goofy Movie; “Sister, Sister”; “Dear John”; “Wings” and “Blossom” (recurring). Megan can be heard on the original cast recordings of Daddy Long Legs, Little Women, Parade, and also Sutton Foster’s “Wish,” singing the duet “Flight.”

Stephen Buntrock (Mr. Graydon) is currently starring in the Encore Series production of Gentleman Prefer Blondes. Other Broadway engagements include starring opposite Bernadette Peters as Fredrik Egerman in A Little Night Music, Curly in Oklahoma!, Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, St. John in the original cast of Jane Eyre, Barrett in Titanic, Enjolras in the Tenth Anniversary Cast of Lés Misérables, Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, and creating Teen Angel for the latest revival of Grease! He has toured extensively across the United States and Canada as Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Rueben in Joseph…Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond, originating the role of Arnaud du Thil in Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Martin Guerre, and The Phantom of the Opera.

Tory Ross (Miss Flannery) has been seen on Broadway in Cry-Baby (Hatchet-Face) and 9 to 5 (Candy Striper). National tours include Wicked (Mid-wife), White Christmas (Mrs. Snoring-Man) and The Producers (Shirley Markowitz). She also appeared in the London production of Silence! the Musical (Agent Clarice Starling). She has been seen at Carnegie Hall in Jerry Springer the Opera (Jerry Cam Stripper), and at The Grand Ole Opry in The Radio City Christmas Spectacular (Mrs. Claus). Favorite regional credits include Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical (Rosemary Clooney, Human Race Theatre), Mame (Cousin Fan; Kennedy Center), Merrily We Roll Along (Gussie, Signature Theatre). Movie appearances include Sex and the City 2 and The Producers.

To purchase Season Tickets by phone, call (314) 361-1900, extension 550, or order online at www.muny.org. The Muny Box Office is now open from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday.
The 7-show line-up is:
Thoroughly Modern Millie June 18 – 24
Chicago June 25 – July 1
Disney’s Aladdin July 5 – 13
Dreamgirls July 16 – 22
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat July 23 – 29
Pirates! (or, Gilbert & Sullivan Plunder’d) July 30 – August 5
The King and I August 6 – 12

Season Ticket buyers will enjoy their reserved seats for Aladdin from July 5 – 11. Additional performances (July 12 and 13) are non-subscribed, and offer exceptional seating opportunities for groups. The Muny’s group sales office offers a 20% discount for groups of 20 or more, and is taking orders now. For more information or to make reservations, call (314) 361-1900, extension 308. Single tickets will be available beginning Saturday, June 2 at The Muny Box Office in Forest Park, online or by phone. For more information, call (314) 361-1900 or visit www.muny.org.

Other Articles by Lia Chang
Thom Sesma, Francis Jue, Robin de Jesus and John Tartaglia set for MUNY’s Aladdin, July 5-13
Samrat Chakrabarti in Ajay Naidu’s Ashes, Italo Spinelli’s Gangor and Shome Banerjee’s Hotel New York 2012 at Washington D.C. South Asian Film Festival (DCSAFF 2012)
Richard Thomas and Boyd Gaines to star in An Enemy of the People at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre during Manhattan Theatre Club’s 2012-2013 Season
Thom Sesma is the keynote speaker for the Library of Congress celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) at the Mary Pickford Theater on May 17
Performing Arts Images from the Asian American Pacific Islander Collection on Display at the Library of Congress to Celebrate APA Heritage Month
Photos: Yellow Fever Playwright Rick Shiomi Explores New Territory with An All-Female Cast
Multimedia: Exclusive photos and video of Disney’s The Lion King Las Vegas -In the Makeup Chair with Thom Sesma
Photos: Highlights of Shinsai: Theaters for Japan (3pm) with Andre Bishop, Mary Beth Hurt, Jennifer Lim, Angela Lin, Philip Kan Gotanda, Thom Sesma, Sab Shimono, Richard Thomas, Jay O. Sanders, and more
Photos: Highlights of Shinsai: Theaters for Japan (8pm) with Oskar Eustis, Patti LuPone, Lisa Emery, Ann Harada, Paolo Montalban, Thom Sesma, Sab Shimono, Henry Stram, Richard Thomas, John Weidman and more
Photos: In Rehearsal with Director Bartlett Sher and the cast of Shinsai: Theaters for Japan
David Henry Hwang Set as Signature Theatre’s Residency One Playwright for the 2012-2013 Season
C.J. Wilson navigates armor and swordplay in Signature Theatre Company’s World Premiere of Kenneth Lonergan’s Medieval Play
Photos: In Rehearsal with BD Wong at Dixon Place for Live Concert Recording of Herringbone
Photos: David Henry Hwang, Oskar Eustis, BD Wong, Brian d’Arcy James, Francis Jue, Jennifer Lim and Leigh Silverman at WNYC’s The Greene Space
Photos: BD Wong, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Brandon Victor Dixon, Tom Viola at “Passing It On: An Evening of Mentorship to Benefit Rosie’s Theater Kids”

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang. Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang. Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography


Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2012 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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