NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT
By Gary Murray
Starring Alex Enterline and Mariah MacFarlane
Music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin
Book by Joe DiPietro
Original direction and Choreography by Kathleen Marshall
George and Ira Gershwin were songwriters from the 1930s who crafted some of the greatest standards of all time. The team wrote some the biggest musicals of Broadway with some of the best songs of the era. Their hits included, “I got Rhythm”, “Embraceable You” and “Strike up the Band”.
Joe DiPietro and Kathleen Marshall have taken these impressive tunes and built a new musical experience with the numbers. Their jukebox musical is Nice Work If You Can Get It which starts its national tour at The Music Hall at Fair Park until September 14 and at Bass Hall from September 16-21.
The story takes place in the 1920s during the era of Prohibition. Jimmy (Alex Enterline) is a carefree playboy who is having a last fling at a speak-easy the night before his 3rd wedding. Outside of the speak-easy, our hero meets Billie (Mariah MacFarlane). She is a bootlegger with too much hooch and no place to hide it. During their cute meeting, Jimmy mentions that he has a mansion on the beach and no one is ever there. Duke (Aaron Fried) and Cookie (Reed Campbell) are her co-criminals.
Billie decides that the beach house is the perfect place to hide the booze and as the last case is in the basement; Jimmy shows up with his newest bride Eileen (Rachael Scarr). She is the finest interpreter of modern dance in the world but has never let Jimmy touch her. Cookie is assumed to be the new butler and the first deceit starts the ball rolling.
Billie admits to Jimmy that she has never been kisses and he obliges her for educational purposes. This single kiss changes how the two feel with each other. The story builds up with different government agents and officials descending on the house. It becomes a madcap chase/adventure with heavily comedic undertones and a few bad jokes along the way.
Along with the different law enforcement agents are the gin-hating Duchess (Stephanie Harter Gilmore) and the Senator Max Evergreen (Benjamin Perez) a man who is the arbitrator of morality. Anyone who has seen these types of comedies knows who will get their comeuppance.
The biggest reason to catch this play is for the music. The songs of the Gershwin are still as relevant as they were all those decades ago. “Nice Work If You Can Get It”, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and “I’ve Got a Crush on You” are all standard songs of America, as important to the culture as “The Star Spangled Banner.”
In Nice Work, the songs have been re-imagined to fit the circumstances of the play but they are still ear candy. Using familiar songs in a new setting has been done on Broadway many times before but here it all feels fresh and brand new.
Like comedies of this ilk, the secondary characters take a majority of the laughs. At almost every moment, Rachael Scarr steals the scene she is in. Her solo song number “Delishious” gets the biggest reaction in the First Act and is almost worth the price of admission alone. Every moment she is on the stage is magical and she gives a performance that should be noticed by casting directors.
Reed Campbell plays Cookie McGee with a comic sensibility of a hardened stand-up. He delivers punches time and time again, taking some weak lines and turning them into comic gold. This is yet another scene stilling performance and an actor destined for greater roles.
While the First Act has the most memorable music, the Second Act is where all the comedy pays off. More than once there is a show stopping moment that is not a musical one but a comedy one. The cast had to wait for the audience to stop gut-laughing to deliver the next line.
There are moments of the play that are a little bawdy but nothing too rude and crude. It is much more about innuendo than shock value. It is on par with a PG-13 movie, not really something for the littlest kids.
Nice Work if You Can Get It won a couple of Tony Award as well as some Drama Desk Awards. The entire musical experience is more along the lines of a fanciful little show, much more like the long forgotten screwball comedy era than a modern comedy show. All in all, Nice Work if You Can Get It a very fun and enjoyable night at the theater.