Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul

Nice Work If You Can Get It
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

Also see Arthur's review of Colossal



Nice Work If You Can Get It arrived at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts on a puff of gossamer. Light and lovely, it provides non-stop delights—especially in the form of tunes from the Gershwin catalog—and frequent laughs. With performances that craft real characters out of sketches provided by the show's book, beautiful roaring twenties costumes, and an ensemble that makes the elaborate, non-stop dance numbers smooth and easy, it is a delightful outing.

Drawn ever so loosely from material by Guy Bolton and P.G. Woodhouse, and the Gershwin musical based on that material, Oh, Kay!, Nice Work If You Can Get It has a new book scribed by Tony Award winner Joe DiPietro that manages to make most of the musical numbers seem to flow seamlessly from plot points. The plot itself is a lot of nonsense set in the prohibition about a gruff (but beautiful beneath the smudges) bootlegger, Billie Bendix; an oft-married playboy, Jimmy Winter, who is about to stumble upon true love; his current fiancée Eileen; her straight laced senator father and moralizing aunt; and a collection of hoodlums, chorines, and vice officers. There are enough interesting plot twists and jokes that hit the mark to make the story a perfectly agreeable frame for these terrific Gershwin numbers.

Only two of the songs included were in the original Oh, Kay!, but no matter—those interpolated from other Gershwin vehicles all make perfect sense in their new context. A few—"Delishious," "Do, Do, Do," and "Do It Again" (lyrics by Buddy DeSylva)—are lesser known numbers that add a shot of bawdiness not usually identified with the Gershwins. Of course, such classics as "Fascinating Rhythm," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "'S Wonderful," "But Not for Me," and the title number maintain the special mix of elegance with an edge of jazz that makes the Gershwin catalog indispensable. "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" is given a particularly zestful staging that also manages to advance the plot. Kathleen Marshall's original choreography, recreated by David Eggers, embellishes the music so that watching is as much fun as listening.

All of the principles perform with heart and zest. Alex Enterline makes an appealing Jimmy, who admits he is neither book-smart nor street-smart, but only rich and good-looking, then adds "Turns out, that's enough," and convinces us that in his case, it really is. Mariah MacFarlane is a swell Billie Bendix, conveying the conflict between maintaining her hard-boiled, bootlegging persona and the inner flame that responds to Jimmy's romantic charms.

Reed Campbell and Aaron Fried, as Billie's bootlegging partners, infuse their characters with great comic timing. Stephanie Gandolfo is a hoot as a dumb-blonde chorus girl who comes "this close" to becoming a British royal. Stephanie Harter Gilmore especially impresses as a moralizing duchess who rails against demon rum and discovers another, untended part of her personality in the course of the evening, inspiring one of the giddiest musical numbers seen in many years.

Of course, that turn of events is hardly a surprise. Most of the on-again off-again plot points can be seen coming down the track, but the point is how much fun we have waiting at the station watching them arrive. To DiPietro's credit, the ending scenes actually do bring an unexpected closure to the proceedings, adding to the buoyancy we feel upon leaving the theater.

The curtain that greets the audience upon entering the theater is emblazoned with the show's logo. The words "Nice Work" loom large, with "If You Can Get It" in smaller lettering below. The point is well-made: this musical is about nothing earth-shaking and will not inspire solutions to global issues—but boy, is it fun. Nice work, indeed!

Continues at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts through October 19, 2014. 345 Washington Street, Saint Paul, MN. Tickets from $36.00 - $120.00. For tickets call 651 224-4222 or go to Ordway.org. For more information on the to tour, visit www.niceworkontour.com/.

Music: George Gershwin; Lyrics: Ira Gershwin; Book: Joe DiPietro; Original Director and Choreographer: Kathleen Marshall; Recreated by: David Eggers; Original Broadway Scenic Design: Derek McLane: Costume Design: Martin Pakledinaz: Original Broadway Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski; Original Broadway Sound Design: Brian Ronan; Hair and Wig Design: Paul Huntley; Scenic Design: Shoko Kambara: Costume Coordinator: Amy Clark: Lighting Design: Paul Toben; Sound Design: Keith Caggiano; Music Supervisor: Shawn Gough; Music Director: Charlie Reuter; Orchestrator: Bill Elliot; Music Arrangements: David Chase; Casting: Wojcik/Seay Casting; Company Supervisor: Stanley Ralph; Company Manager: Stacy Myers; Assistant Stage Manager: Kate Wilson

Cast: Reed Campbell (Cookie McGee), Alex Enterline (Jimmy Winter), Aaron Fried (Duke Mahoney), Stephanie Gandolfo (Jeannie Muldoon), Stephanie Harter Gilmore (Duchess Estonia Dulworth), Mariah MacFarlane (Billie Bendix), Benjamin Perez (Senator Max Evergreen), Rachael Scarr (Eileen Evergreen), Barbara Weetman (Millicent Winter), Ensemble: Jessica Bare, Kayla Starr Bryan, Christian Bufford, Elyse Collier, Carl DeForrest Hendin, Nick Jones, Kristina King, Alison Morooney, Kevin Michael Raponey, Justin Schuman, Chris Woods


Photo: Jeremy Daniel


- Arthur Dorman


Also see the season schedule for the Minneapolis - St. Paul region


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