“Thoroughly Modern Millie” will be the first fully-theatrical presentation by the Expect Excellence Community Theater in the new Performing Arts Center on Canal Road. The state-of-art 710-seat theater also serves as the performance venue for Orange Beach High School, as part of a cooperative agreement between the Baldwin County Public School System and the City of Orange Beach.
Jacob Morris realized theater directing was his real calling in his senior year of college. Morris is directing the Expect Excellence Community Theater’s presentation of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” in February of next year.
“I am very excited about moving to the Performing Arts Center. It is a lot more seats to fill, but it’s also a more traditional type of space for the play. Millie is a high energy and big production kind of show, and I can’t imagine a better way to open the P.A.C., than with this play,” Morris said.
An Akron, Ohio, native, Morris described “Thoroughly Modern Millie” as a “coming of age story with a girl coming from a small southern town to the big city. The story follows how she deals with all the changes in her life and how she relates to all the different types of people and lifestyles along the way.”
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” has an added layer of difficulty, according to Morris, because it involves the entire cast of 25 learning to tap dance for various segments of the show. “They all have their shoes and have started their tap classes,” Morris said. “It’s going to be crazy, but fun,” he added, referring to some of the challenging dance numbers.
Morris had been involved with acting and the arts since middle school, but it wasn’t until an opportunity to do production work with the a cappella singing group Pentatonix in New York City, that he realized his real passion lies in the arts.
He also directed the previous Expect Excellence Community Theater production of the “Addams Family – A New Musical Comedy”, which was presented in a dinner theater set up, at the Orange Beach Event Center.
During a normal workday, Morris is the manager and artistic director of Bay Area Performing Arts, a youth theater company in Daphne.
Morris described his directing style as being centered on realism. “I want the characters to be authentic and believable, because that’s when the audience gets the most out of what they’re watching. There’s a difference between stepping into a character versus bringing the experiences you have as an actor to a character,” he said. As part of his directorial process, Morris explained he subscribes to the Sanford Meisner acting philosophy, which is where “your character should be rooted in your personal experience, but you add an imaginative layer onto it, to create a stronger character.”
When directing community theater, Morris said, he feels it is very important to “create a very open, welcoming, and fun environment, where everyone feels they can join in.” It’s especially important to create a positive atmosphere with a theater group such as Expect Excellence Community Theater, Morris said, because there is such a broad spectrum of acting experience involved. There are some people in this play “who have been on Broadway, and we have some people where this is their very first show,” he added.
Morris believes “Thoroughly Modern Millie” appeals to a lot of different audiences. “There are amazing things and amazing moments people will see in this play, and I really encourage everyone to come see this show,” Morris said confidently.
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” will be performed Feb. 4-6 and 11-13. Friday and Saturday shows will be at 7 p.m. and Sunday’s show time is at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $15 and seats may be chosen on the ticketing site at https://www.onthestage.tickets/show/city-of-orange-beach/thoroughly-modern-millie-38659. The Orange Beach Performing Arts Center is located at 23908 Canal Road, Orange Beach, Ala. 36561, on the east side of the high school.