BWW Review: THE IT GIRL Definitely has IT at Meadow Brook Theatre!
Sometimes walking into a theatre, you know next to nothing about a show. Now that can end up being an experience where you are counting down the minutes until it is over or where you end up being so enthralled by the production that you are sad when the lights come up. The IT Girl is definitely the latter of those two examples. Playing until June 23rd, the final show of Meadow Brook Theatre's season brings the classic silent movie musical to life with an extremely talented cast lead by Sara Kmiec (Betty Lou Spence) and Nathan Cockroft (Jonathan Waltham) that truly makes you feel like you have stepped back in time right inside a black and white movie. The IT Girl is a wonderful piece of Michigan Theatre!
The IT Girl by Michael Small, BT McNicholl, and Paul McKibbins is retelling of the 1927 Paramount Picture, IT, which starred Clara Bow. Betty Lou Spence, a sassy department store clerk, has something special. It's enough to win an advertising contest looking for the girl with "IT,' but will it be enough to charm the heir to the retail empire that employs her?
Director, Travis W. Walter, found the perfect performer for his IT girl when he cast Sara Kmiec as Betty Lou Spence. Kmiec has IT. She is a breath of fresh air on stage - full of
talent, spunkiness, energy, and a joyfulness that just radiates off the stage. Kmiec is a triple threat as she is gifted in acting, dancing, and especially singing, which she immediately displays in the opening number "Black and White World" and then it really stands out during "Left Hand Arrangement." Before The IT Girl opened, BWW Detroit had a chance to speak with her and it was easy to see how much she adored her role (click here to read the interview!), but watching Kmiec perform on stage is a completely different story. She gives 110%, not only to her character, but to the performance, making it a night that the audience will not forget.
Nathan Cockroft as Jonathan Waltham came as quite surprise with his performance. It was easy to see he was talented - immediately connecting with the audience, worked well with his fellow cast members and great comedic timing. Then an amazing moment happened: Cockroft sang his first song, "Stand Straight and Tall," and it was a glorious moment of theatre! There are moments watching a show that a performer can amaze you and this was one of them. Although it is rare to be disappointed at a Meadow Brook Theatre show, I have never been so impressed by someone before and I think it was because I did not expect that voice to come out of him. The smoothness, quality, tone, the way it radiated through the theatre - everything about it was a voice I could listen to over and over again. Hey Mr. Cockroft, when you record your first album, let me know so I can pre-order it!
One aspect of The IT Girl was how wonderful the cast worked together. Travis W. Walter really constructed a team that fed off each other and was so much fun for the audience to watch on stage, which, with The IT Girl being a musical that is not well-known, is a brilliant way to cast the show. Kmiec and Cockroft were the perfect leading pair as Betty and Jonathan. Their on-stage chemistry was exhilarating. Some of the best moments were watching the two of them interact and especially hearing the two of them sing together such as in "Coney Island." Dan Fenaughty played Monty (and others), but as Monty, he stood out for his hilarious comedic interactions with his castmates. Larissa Klinger played Molly (and others/Dance Captain), but as Molly, she was sweet and her voice really stood out in "Mama's Arms." When Kmiec, Fenaughty,
and Klinger were interacting on stage together, it always had the audience full of laughter - they made quite the trio! That would be my one caveat about the show: I wish there was more scenes with the three of them because they were so enjoyable! The rest of the cast is Jackie Raye (Adela and others,) Stephanie Wahl (Mrs. Van Norman and others,) and Ron Williams (Notting and others.)
One note should be made about the exceptional set, lighting, and costumes that were done for this production at Meadow Brook Theatre. The scenic design by Jen Price Frick and assisted by Jasmine Radetski along with the lighting design by Matthew J. Fick is perfect for this show. Visually, it felt like it was a black and white film brought to life on stage, but it wasn't dull nor lifeless. With the performers in their fantastic period costumes, designed by Corey Collins and assisted by Shireen Unvala, the blacks, greys, and whites came to life just as vividly as if they were bright blues, pinks, and purples because everything - the set, lights, and costumes - all worked together so seamlessly. The neatest trick with all these aspects is at the beginning and end, but just like with the end of story, I won't give that away, so go see the show to experience it for yourself!
I went into The IT Girl only knowing the bare minimum about the show. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the moment the lights dimmed and the music started, I was smiling. And you know what? I never stopped smiling. It was a wonderful feeling! It isn't show that you need to think about while watching or one that makes you disappointed in any way. It's fun. It's frivolous. It's delightful. It's filled with exceptional and brilliant talent. Finally, you'll leave feeling happy with a smile on your face. I think we all need a little more happiness in our lives,The IT Girl at Meadow Brook Theatre brings Michigan theatre that happiness. Go see it and get some of that happiness!
The IT Girl is currently running until June 23rd at Meadow Brook Theatre on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester. For tickets and more information, call 248-377-3300 or visit www.mbtheatre.com.