'The It Girl'

 

By: Stuart Duncan, TimeOFF

10/19/2005

 

 

 

Photo Gallery

From left: Angela Sytko, Timothy Walton and Heather Diaforli-Day star in The It Girl at Off-Broadstreet Theatre in Hopewell.


 

Off-Broadstreet Theatre presents this old-fashioned love story about a girl from the wrong side of the tracks.

   Unless you follow off-Broadway like the proverbial hawk, you are likely not to be familiar with a new musical called The It Girl. It had a successful run back in 2001 at the York Theatre after its world premiere, which happened to be in North Carolina in the small town of Blowing Rock. It has a delightful book by Michael Small and B.T. McNicholl (who also did the lyrics) and the score is by Paul McKibbins.
   I just plain had more fun at this show than any in three or four years; in fact, not since the original production of Inspecting Carol at George Street Playhouse. (That show is returning to New Brunswick next month, and I can't wait.) But for some reason The It Girl at Off-Broadstreet in Hopewell had me in stitches all evening and feeling good for a long time afterwards. It takes its theme from the 1920s, but surprisingly it is not really about Clara Bow (she was known as the "It" girl in those halcyon days). Rather, it is an old-fashioned love story about a girl from the wrong side of the tracks (in this case,
Brooklyn) and a department store scion. The girl is named Betty Lou Spence and is played delightfully by Heather Diaforli-Day; the guy is named Jonathan Waltham and is played by Nicholas Muni.
   Now, of course, the course of true love never runs smooth and certainly not in a show with a theme from the 1920s. So Jonathan's hand-picked girlfriend from the right side of the tracks, Adela Van Norman (Michelle Russell all dolled up in a blond wig and acting as arch as the script permits) sets out to sabotage anything not nailed down. She gets plenty of help — first from Jonathan's best friend, Monty Montgomery (Timothy Walton), and second from the rest of the cast (Tom Orr, Laura Jackson Novia and Angela Sytko, all of whom play at least five roles with assorted costume changes, wig shifts and accent butchering).
   But the dialogue is sparkling. When Adela's mom urges her daughter to get on the ball and get herself hitched, she blurts, "Most of your friends are already divorced and you aren't even married yet." And the cast of seven not only handles it with style and verve, but sings and dances up a storm while doing it. In fact, the choreography in this particular show is far better than anything I have seen in years (credit Julie Thick, who managed to incorporate the
Charleston in every way imaginable and then work out a few other dances to slip in as well).
   Meanwhile, four talented musicians — Ken Howard on piano, Steve Pasierb on bass, Jack Furlong on woodwinds and Linda Docar on percussion — get a real workout. Fair warning: this is going to be another in a long line of sellouts at Off-Broadstreet once the word gets out. Make your reservations as early as you can and be prepared with an alternative date lest you be disappointed.

The It Girl continues at Off-Broadstreet Theatre,
5 S. Greenwood Ave., Hopewell, through Nov. 26. Performances: Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2:30 p.m. Doors open one hour earlier for beverages and desserts. Tickets costs $23.75-$25.25. For information, call (609) 466-2766.

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