"A neat, very witty book by Michael Small
and BT McNicholl"
-- Clive Barnes, New York Post
tinkly piano music, a young woman in the 1920s cranks a nickelodeon.
On a movie screen behind her, we see what she sees: Keystone Kops,
Valentino, Harold Lloyd hanging from a clock. A title card announces
"Once upon a time, there lived a special girl who had it all...."
and a stunning image of Clara Bow appears. The young woman stops,
wishing she could escape her hectic and cynical world for the clarity
of Clara's. Her wish is granted when the nickelodeon starts blinking
and silent movie characters appear, drawing her into their BLACK
AND WHITE WORLD.
Suddenly, she's transformed into Betty Lou Spence, an irresistible
lingerie clerk at Waltham's, the world's largest department store.
She confides to the other girls that she just spotted the man of her
dreams, the store's dashing new boss. Her pals laugh -- why would
he give her a second look? But Betty kicks up her heels and asks,
In the head office, we meet her prince, Jonathan Waltham, listening
to his gadabout chum Monty prattle on about the latest rage -- a form
of sex appeal called IT. But Jonathan doesn't have time for these
modern fads; he's too busy trying to STAND STRAIGHT AND TALL.
Jonathan holds a press conference to announce a marketing plan designed
to revive the faltering store: a doily giveaway. The crowd snubs his
scheme (they want something modern). Panicked, he turns to Monty,
whose crowd-pleasing description of IT launches a frenzy -- and an
IT-Girl contest. But who will IT be?
Outside the store, Monty finds the answer when he meets Betty --
but she still has her eye on Jonathan. When she finds out he's dining
at the Ritz with his steady date Adela Van Norman, Betty persuades
Monty to take her there, too.
arrives home where her waif-like roommate Molly is cradling her infant
in MAMA'S ARMS. Molly's upset. Mean Mrs. Sullivan
from next door has threatened to have the child taken to an orphanage.
Betty lightens the mood with a more immediate problem: She doesn't
know WHAT TO WEAR for her dinner date. In their Fifth
Avenue mansion, Adela and her mother are wondering the same thing....
At the Ritz, Jonathan spots Betty and is smitten (IT Reprise). He
introduces himself, but she bets that he won't recognize her the next
time they meet.
Back in her boudoir, Adela gets a scolding from her mother -- why
didn't Jonathan propose!? Adela attempts to come up with A
PERFECT PLAN to snag him.
next day, Betty slips into Jonathan's office without being recognized
and wins her bet. She wants a night at CONEY ISLAND
as her prize. But tonight is out -- he has a date with Adela. Then,
as Betty's fantasies transform his office into an amusement park,
he can't resist. Off to the midway!
Jonathan walks Betty home, declaring her his own personal IT-Girl.
As they part, mean Mrs. Sullivan storms out and scolds Betty about
Molly's baby. A dark figure lurks in the shadows -- it's Adela, who
figures out a way to bring Betty down as the curtain falls on the
FINALE OF ACT I.
With melodramatic flair, Adela dons a disguise and bursts into Molly's
apartment with Mrs. Sullivan -- and a reporter who writes a trumped
up story about a WOMAN AND WAIF, falsely identifying
Betty as an unwed mother. Brandishing the article, Monty rushes to
Jonathan who's now caught between his love for Betty and his fear
of scandal. When Betty drops by in a fetching bathing suit, Jonathan
is cold to her but ultimately begs her, STAY WITH ME.
Betty hears wedding bells -- until she realizes his proposal is an
illicit LEFT-HAND ARRANGEMENT. She storms out.
The next day, Monty tells Betty he "forgives" her for being
an unwed mother -- but she's livid with him for being so quick to
question her honor. To save the friendship, she and Molly teach him
a lesson: Don't judge people until you STEP INTO THEIR SHOES.
When Betty hears that Jonathan also believed the phony article, she
decides to teach him a lesson, too -- by crashing the annual Waltham
finds the yacht's first mate preparing for a cruise OUT AT
SEA with the snooty invited guests, who are shocked by the
arrival of an outrageous interloper: Mademoiselle de Latrine. Betty's
performance as this faux Frenchie climaxes with the naughty novelty
HOW DO YOU SAY…? Her risque routine shocks
the partygoers, but Jonathan is won over. He proposes on the spot.
With an angry laugh, Betty rejects him and makes one final splash
by diving overboard to swim home.
later, Betty is at her new job selling newspapers outside Waltham's,
wondering if she should have followed her own advice to STEP
INTO THEIR SHOES (Reprise). A cocky newsboy tries to muscle
in on her corner, then gets her to confess that she's still in love
with Jonathan. The newsboy removes his disguise: it's Jonathan, declaring
YOU'RE THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME.
Their kiss is interrupted by Adela, who leads everyone in a big chase
that ends in the store. Monty and Molly reveal they've plastered Betty's
picture all over town -- announcing her as the contest winner. The
crowds agree! Waltham's is forced to crown Betty as the one and only
woman with IT. The FINALE builds to a rousing celebration
until Betty once again becomes the young woman at the nickelodeon.
She leaves the black and world with a renewed spirit and heads toward
the silver screen with a carefree Charleston as the lights fade, the
curtain falls ... and that's IT.