The Atlanta Lyric Theatre

Atlanta Lyric Theatre is ‘It’ for old-time musical fun

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
March 12, 2009

In “The It Girl,” Atlanta Lyric Theatre’s delightful flapper musical about love and class conflict, Waltham runs the family department store and has to come up with a nifty marketing slogan.

In the social upheavals of the go-go 1920s, polite society has gone topsy-turvy. Women flaunt sexy clothes, entice with the Charleston and assert independence.

And the working class? They’re starting to act like they can get somewhere in life —- like they’re more than just grease for the capitalist machine.

But Waltham (Mike Masters) is old school. A doily. That’s what proper women want. Instead, in a flash of mass-culture insight, he launches the “It Girl” contest —- searching for a young woman with sex appeal.

One of the shopgirls, spunky Betty Lou Spence (Claci Miller), has “It” scrawled all over her bob-cut hairdo. With a Brooklyn accent and rough manners, she’s the Cinderella who flirts with Waltham as much as he woos her. (Silent-movie starlet Clara Bow, the original “It” girl, appears as a big projection.)

In the book by Michael Small and BT McNicholl, the yuck-yucks are based on the premise that the rich are, in fact, phonies who’d rather cut loose at Coney Island than sip champagne on a yacht. It’s the fundamental of American populism: Breeding don’t matter, it’s what ya got inside that counts.

In the lovingly refurbished Strand Theatre on the square in Marietta, the production is a winner all around.

Claci Miller embodies Betty, though her singing gets shrieky in her upper range. As Adela Van Norman, Bethany Irby almost upstages everyone as the bratty rich girl. Mike Master does Waltham in full starch.

But will the willowy widow Molly (Ashley Hughson), a single mother, really get paired at the end with that alcoholic mama’s boy Monty (Jeff Juday)?

Composer Paul McKibbins, who was in the opening night audience, penned a score that’s pleasantly, if blandly, suggestive of flapper-era decadence —- think watered-down Cole Porter —- with sensuous tangos and broken-harmony waltzes. The six-piece cabaret pit orchestra sounded great the whole evening.

Alan Kilpatrick’s old-timey direction is crisp and often hilarious, as in the opening minutes when the cast walks around in jittery motion, like in a vintage news reel. The lovers’ roller coaster ride, simple but effective, earned its own round of applause.groove in Leiber & Stoller.

The Atlanta Lyric Theatre