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A CurtainUp Review
The IT Girl

When you've got IT, you've got it all!

Clara Bow
whose movie
IT inspired
The It Girl
Jean Louisa Kelly &<br>Jonathan Dokuchitz
Jean Louisa Kelly &
Jonathan Dokuchitz
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Two Cinderella musicals in a row, one set in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression and one towards the end of the roaring twenties: a big, glamorous revival of 42nd Street and The IT Girl, a newcomer to cap the York Theatre Company's season of small scale new works . It was thrilling to see thirty-six pairs of dancing feet fill a large stage and listen to the many wonderful standard songs. It was no less exciting to see how much energy and fun can be generated by a cast of seven and a tuneful new take on the Cinderella theme.

The IT Girl is not about Clara Bow but a takeoff on IT, the 1927 silent film that made her a star and added IT, as in having sex appeal and vivacity galore, to our slanguage vocabulary. The Cinderella of this show is a spunky girl from Brooklyn who sells lingerie in a Manhattan department store. When Jonathan Waltham, the handsome department store scion, egged on by his blue-blooded chum Monty Montgomery, launches a business-boosting contest for a girl with IT, Betty Lou Spencer not only wins the contest but her young boss's heart. While a happily ever after ending is inevitable, the romance is complicated by a jealous society girl, Adela Van Norman, who has targeted Jonathan as the means for restoring her blue-blooded family's ebbing fortunes. With the help of the mean landlady who dislikes and disapproves of Betty's roommate Molly (Susan M. Haefner playing the single mother who's actually a widow and not a "loose" woman ), Adela spreads rumors that Molly's baby is Betty's with Monty inadvertently exacerbating the situation..

The composer, lyricist and book writers have turned this saga of love imperiled and triumphant into a valentine to an era in which everyone kicked up their heels to the Charleston and the slightly risqué implications of having IT was a welcome relief from moral standards that were still as black and white as the movies. Paul McKibbins' score is a tuneful blend of musical revue, jazz and ragtime. BT McNicholl's lyrics are sassy, as evidenced in the lines describing an IT girl as one who is "frequently naughty/and never naive". . . and would make a man celebrate, and give up being celibate. " The catchy title song is reprised several times but it's worth reprising, as are the over a dozen other songs -- each one building character and moving the story forward

McNicholls who besides writing the lyrics and co-authoring the book also directs with panache. He and his design team have underscored the show's tie to the silent films with a stylish film noir palette. Robin L. McGee's costumes shout Roaring Twenties (they might even seed a comeback for the flattering, face-hugging cloche hat!). Even the smallest props in Mark Nayden's set design adhere to the black, white and gray noir look. Elaine J. McCarthy's projections helpfully expand the show's geographical reach and the intra-scene silent movie sequences by Steve Smith add to the nostalgic fun.

The cast, as already indicated, is top notch, ably jumping into the various ensemble numbers as well as their main roles. Jean Louisa Kelly does indeed have IT. Her perkiness and charm more than make up for a voice that is, like her character, more perky than powerful. Jonathan Dokuchitz sings well and is aptly handsome and just a bit sappy. Stephen DeRosa, the only member of this septet with whose work I'm well acquinted, is as amusing as ever as Monty Montgomery. With his talent for quick persona switches, give him the right hair piece and he'd make a likely replacement for any number of the guys in The Producers . On the other hand he might be too busy if The IT Girl becomes its own Cinderella story and the cast dances to another Off-Broadway theater for a longer, commercial run.

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Book by Michael Small & BT McNicholl.
Based on the 1927 Paramount film IT

Music and orchestrations by Paul McKibbin
Lyrics and direction by BT McNicholl
Choreography by Robert Bianca
Cast: Jean Louisa Kelly, Danette Holden, Stephen DeRosa, Jessica Boevers, Jonathan Dukochitz, Monte Wheeler
Set Design: Mark Nayden
Lighting Design: Jeff Nellis

Costume Design: Robin L. McGee
Projections: Elaine J. McCarthy
Silent movie sequences: Steve Smith
Lighting consultant: Paul Gallo
Musicians: Albin Konopka - Music Director, Piano; Chris Miele - Reeds, Clarinet, Flute, Saxophone; Amy Kimball - Violin; Ratso Harris - Bass; Ray Grappone - Drums, Percussion.

Running Time: 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission.
The York Theatre at St. Peter's Church, Citicorp Center, 619 Lexington Ave. (at 54th St), 239-6200

4/17/01-5/27/01; opening 5/03 Performances Tue-Sun 8 pm; Wed, Sat, Sun 2:30 pm -- $45 (matinees)-$50 (evenings)

Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 4/28 performance

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