Live at the Ritz

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 28, 2006

They'll be &#8220puttin' on the Ritz” at Greenville's 1930s-vintage Art Deco theater tonight, as 17 young women vie for the title of Miss Greater Greenville 2006. The pageant, an official preliminary to the

Miss Alabama/Miss America Scholarship Program,

will kick off promptly at 7 p.m. at the Ritz.

The contestants and judges arrived in the Camellia City Friday evening to prepare for the busy weekend.

A judge's reception and farewell to outgoing Miss Greater Greenville, Christen Clarke of Mobile, was held at the home of Jill and Steve Stallworth Friday night.

Having the newly rejuvenated Miss America Program televised just a week before the local preliminary has added to the excitement of the local program's board. The fact Miss Alabama 2005 Alexa Jones, did very well in the national competition increases their anticipation.

&#8220When Alexa placed as second runner-up to Miss America this year, we were thrilled. And Deirdre Downs, the previous Miss America, started out as Miss Alabama. So, you can see, we have a very strong program in this state,” Sue Arnold, director of the Miss GG Scholarship Board, said.

The local program also earned top honors when they were chosen &#8220Best New Preliminary for 2005” by the Miss Alabama Program.

&#8220We've gotten very good feedback from past contestants and their families about their Miss Greater Greenville experience. We want to continue to extend that good ol' southern hospitality to all these girls,” Arnold said.

The 17 contestants in tonight's program hail from across the state and range in age from 17 to 25. A Greenvillian, Alicia Brown, will be one of those on stage this evening.

Tonight's event will be a mix of old and new. Program music will pay homage to the Ritz's history, Arnold said. Silver screen tunes popular during the former movie theater's heyday, including &#8220Puttin' on the Ritz,” &#8220As Time Goes By,” and &#8220You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,” will be featured throughout the evening.

Clarke will share the vocal skills that earned her a prestigious non-finalist talent award at Miss Alabama last year, while the Senior Dance Team from Sonya's Dance Studio of Greenville will be &#8220steppin' out” during the entertainment portions of the program.

Ralph Stacy, a familiar face to many, is returning as the emcee for the evening's events.

There are a couple of new twists for Miss Greater Greenville this year. Along with a new category, casual wear, being added to the event, a new system for tabulating scores will also be in place.

&#8220The judges will determine the top five contestants – then all the points will be discarded, and they start over again,” Arnold said.

&#8220The auditors then present ballots to the judges with those five names. The judges must rank them in the order they believe each girl should be ranked, with each rank assigned a specific number of points. These are tabulated by the auditors to determine final ranking, and the new Miss Greater Greenville.”

The 17 contestants will be judged in the areas of talent (35 percent); interview (25 percent); evening wear (15 percent); swimsuit (10 percent); casual wear (10 percent) and onstage question (5 percent).

In addition to the new Miss Greater Greenville, a first, second and third runner-up will be chosen, along with swimsuit and talent winners.

A number of business and individuals have contributed scholarship monies for the finalists, as well as gifts and gift certificates for the new queen. &#8220We have had fabulous support from our local community in preparing for this event and we appreciate each and every person who has helped us out,” Arnold said.

Just as CMT, the new television home of the Miss America pageant, is touting high ratings for this year's event, Arnold and her fellow Miss GG board members are hoping for a big turnout tonight.

&#8220This is much more than just a beauty pageant. The girls participating in this program work hard preparing for their talent and interview, staying fit, developing poise and confidence,” Arnold said.

&#8220Anyone who is interested in becoming a part of the Miss Alabama program in the future should definitely come and be with us at the Ritz Saturday night.”

Tickets for tonight's Miss GG program are $5 at the box office.