Irene

Irene is a musical with a book by James Montgomery, lyrics by Joseph McCarthy, and music by Harry Tierney. Based on Montgomery’s play Irene O’Dare, it is set in New York City’s Upper West Side and focuses on immigrant shop assistant Irene O’Dare, who is introduced to Long Island’s high society when she’s hired by one of its leading grande dames to help redecorate her home.

The original Broadway production, directed by Edward Royce, opened on November 18, 1919 at the Vanderbilt Theatre, where it ran for 675 performances, at the time the record for the longest-running show in Broadway history, one it maintained for nearly two decades. The cast included Edith Day as Irene, Walter Regan as tycoon Donald Marshall, and Bobbie Watson as Madame Lucy, a flamboyant male dress designer.

Irene O’Dare is a humble but ambitious, hard-working Irish girl from West Side Manhattan, who runs a little music store with her widowed mother. Irene is sent to tune a piano for young tycoon Donald Marshall III, a Long Island society gentleman, and they promptly fall in love, each captivated by how different the other is from their usual friends. Donald’s ne’er-do-well cousin Ozzie wants help to jump start a fashion business to be run by his friend, “Madame Lucy”, a flamboyant male artiste. So Irene and her pretty best friends, Helen McFudd and Jane Burke, are recruited to model Madame Lucy’s gowns, and Donald provides financing. Irene’s mother and Donald’s mother do not see eye-to-eye at first but grow to be friends. Irene poses as a society girl who convinces everyone to shop at Madame Lucy’s, but she becomes angry with Donald when he asks her to continue the ruse. He finally relents revealing her true identity and confessing his love.

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