Nice Work If You Can Get It
Presented by Savoyards Musical Comedy Society Inc
Music and Lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin
Book by Joe DiPietro
Directed by Sherryl-Lee Secomb
Iona Performing Arts Centre
Season: 24 September to 8 October. Bookiungs: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (07) 3893 4321.
Nice Work If You Can Get It is set in Long Island, New York in 1927. It tells the story of wealthy playboy, Jimmy Winter. Jimmy is totally drunk, having just been married (to his third or is it fourth wife?) and he bumps into a tough female bootlegger, Billie Bendix outside the speakeasy.
He lets slip that his family owns a large beach house on Long Island which is never used. Billie and her gang have a shipment of hooch that needs hiding and think the beach house’s basement is the perfect hidey-hole – or maybe it was nor so perfect. Mayhem and hijinks ensue as Jimmy and his new wife, Eileen, turn up at the beach house, as does Eileen’s Senator father, her aunt Duchess Estonia and her vice squad, plus the local Police Chief. Billie’s gang works overtime to keep the 400 cases of gin hidden.
Nice Work is termed as a ‘new’ Gershwin musical, in that it is a collection of Gershwin works and uses a 1926 musical Oh, Kay as the base. It hit the boards on Broadway in 2012.
Clay English is the playboy, Jimmy Winter. His role is a load of fun as he tries to come to terms with being committed to yet another wife, and yet his ‘girlfriends’ all turn up for the expectant wild party. Clay’s dancing talent is brought to the fore, with soft shoe shuffle, Charleston, and tap intermingled in the choreography designed by Desney Toia-Sinapati.
Emily Vascotto is Billie Bendix, the bootlegger. She is a very strong character, doing what she has to, to make a living and enjoying it. She is also the spanner in the works for Jimmy. Emily’s singing prowess really did justice to the Gershwin songs, particularly Someone to Watch Over Me. She was an absolute delight. I really liked the song Treat Me Rough where Billie tries to keep Jimmy distracted in the bedroom while wearing a dress and heels for the first time, with all the awkward moves that go along with that - very funny.
Grace Clarke is Eileen Evergreen, Jimmy’s new wife to be. She is a society girl who is a ‘modern dancer’. Grace was equally delightful in her role and the song Delishious sung by Eileen and chorus dressed as bath bubbles was simply lovely, especially as they hide Eileen as she gets out of the bath with a long strip of material which she is then wrapped then.
Warryn James is Cookie, one of Billie’s gang. He gets the idea to dress up as a butler, so as to throw suspicion away from the house (and basement) when the police turn up. He gets to deliver some brilliant throwaway lines, which he does with aplomb. I liked Warryn’s Cookie character the best. He really does have the best lines and sets up the rest of the characters for massive falls and when it goes wrong just shrugs his shoulders and leaves it to them to sort out. The quick repartee where one character is struggling for words and they start to say what Cookie is supplying also just ends up with more mischief done and a bundle of laughs. Jacqui Cuny is Duchess Estonia Dulworth, a very strict woman who has founded the Institute for Dry Women. Her rendition of By Strauss along with Warryn James had to be the best duet in the whole musical.
Alec Raymond is Senator Max Evergreen, Eileen’s father and is a pompous, righteous senator/judge/reverend. Alex did well in portraying this obnoxious character, who suddenly becomes as meek as a mouse when Jimmy’s mother, Millicent turns up. Kyle Fenwick is Duke Mahoney, the other member of Billie’s gang and Caroline Bird is Jeannie Muldoon who falls for Duke, believing he is a real Duke (because Cookie has told yet another pack of lies). They sing the delightful duet, Blah, Blah, Blah.
The opening scene begins in the Speakeasy, where Jimmy is living up to his reputation as a playboy. From here, we end up outside the Speakeasy on the docks, and then the rest of the musical takes place inside the beach house, either in the living room, bathroom, bedroom, dining room or outside garden. The set cleverly takes care of all of this by a central insert that is removed and replaced with another to create the scene required. Minimal props come on and off smoothly to add the extra touches.
The costumes had the twenties flapper flavour and were absolutely lovely. They worked in perfect unison with each of the scenes and just looked superb in all the dance numbers. The Gershwin numbers were performed by the fabulous orchestra, led by Geoffrey Secomb and transported the audience back into the twenties era.
I enjoyed this show – it is a real entertainment piece. There were a couple of flat spots in the first half, but the second half had the pace to be expected from the lively numbers and as the shenanigans come to their climax. Credit must go to the Director, Sherryl-Lee Secomb, and the whole cast and crew for the enormous effort that went into bringing this lively, funny and delightful musical to the stage.