‘The It Girl’ provides a frothy trip to the ’20s at Meadow Brook
ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich.–The It Girl, the season-closer currently playing at Meadow Brook Theatre, is a summery confection, silly and sweet, the whipped cream topping on ice cream. The 2001 musical is based on the 1927 silent film “It,” which earned star Clara Bow the nickname “It girl.” With music in the style of 1920s musical comedies, it also features a clever visual twist that turns this show into a black-and-white (although not-so-silent) movie.
The production is highlighted by a cast of superb singers who can also pull off some high-speed choreography (by Jeremy Benton) even while belting a tune.
The frothy plot centers on a department store contest to find a woman who possesses “it.” That’s Betty Lou, our leading lady, who also falls in love with the department store boss.
Betty Lou is the kind of heroine they used to call plucky, and Sara Kmiec energetically plays her with a sassy flair, a beautiful singing voice and quite capable dancing abilities. Dan Fenaughty is a standout as Monty, the air-headed best friend of the department store owner who is also the first of the gang to befriend Bettty Lou and her roommate Molly.
As Molly, a widowed single mother, Larissa Klinger sings a lovely lullaby and plays a feisty good friend. She also doubles in other roles, as do several of the cast.
Jackie Raye has fun as the thoroughly not-nice Adela Van Norman, who is angling for the same store magnate as Betty Lou. Nathan Cockroft plays that leading man with a fine voice and slightly goofy charm.
The small cast is rounded out by Ron Williams and Stephanie Wahl, who pull off multiple supporting roles – from store employees to Coney Island performers – with easy transitions.
As usual, director Travis W. Walter has the show moving along at a boisterous pace, aided by the musical direction of Heidi Joosten and her six-piece orchestra.
Costumer Corey Collins, lighting designer Matthew Fick and scenic designer Jen Price Fick had the challenge of making this monochrome dreamland look appealing, and they succeed quite well. (Although a combination of stark footlights, and perhaps makeup, at times gives the actors a Pagliacci-whiteface look, which was a bit distracting to me – but possibly only me.)
Collins’ costumes, in particular, are a beautiful evocation of period clothes. In fact, as three “one-percenters” in elegant black-and-white sang about themselves, I was reminded of the “My Fair Lady” “Ascot Gavotte” crowd, only as Americans a decade later. No wonder we needed a plucky heroine to shake them up!