BWW REVIEW: Who Could Ask for Anything More of Ogunquit's NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT?
Music by George Gershwin; lyrics by Ira Gershwin; book by Joe DiPietro; inspired by material by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse; direction, Larry Raben; choreography, Peggy Hickey; music direction, Charlie Reuter; original Broadway set design, Derek McLane; set design, Shoko Kambara; costume design, Martin Pakledinaz; lighting design, Richard Latta; sound design, Kevin Heard; wig and make-up design, Britt E. Griffith
Performances and Tickets:
Now through August 15, Ogunquit Playhouse, 10 Main Street (Route 1), Ogunquit, Maine; tickets start at $44 and are available online at www.ogunquitplayhouse.org or by calling the Box Office at 207-646-5511.
Cast in Order of Appearance:
Jeannie Muldoon, Elyse Collier; Jimmy Winter, Joey Sorge; Billie Bendix, Amanda Lea LaVergne; Duke Mahoney, Aaron Fried; Cookie McGee, James Beaman; Chief Berry, Valton Jackson; Senator Max Evergreen, Steve Brady; Duchess Estonia Dulworth, Sally Struthers; Eileen Evergreen, Breighanna Minnema; Millicent Winter, Valerie Harper (at the reviewed performance, to be replaced for the remainder of the run by Brenda Vaccaro on August 4); The Chorus Girls, Madison Mitchell, Ashlea Potts, Heather Stinson, Kristina Miller, Noelle Marion; The Vice Squad, Willie Dee, Matthew J. Kilgore, Matthew J. Vargo, Andrew Metzgar, Kent Zimmerman
You won't be slipped a Mickey Finn, but Maine's Ogunquit Playhouse will knock you off your feet with its "delishious" production of NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT running through August 15. Chock-a-block full of bootleggers, playboys, dancing girls and prohibitionists, NICE WORK is a non-stop musical feast with non-stop screwball laughs.
NICE WORK is based loosely on the 1920s musical comedy "Oh, Kay!" written by the Gershwins, Guy Bolton, and P.G. Wodehouse for the star of the day, Gertrude Lawrence. Revamped by Tony Award winner Joe DiPietro for a 2012 Broadway run, the show features a juke box score of 22 of George and Ira's classic songs. Some, like "Someone to Watch Over Me," "S'Wonderful," "But Not for Me" and the title song, appear in other Broadway shows, most notably 1992's "Crazy for You" and the currently running "An American in Paris." The vast majority, however, are lesser known trunk songs that evoke the "Sweet and Low Down" effervescence of the fast and loose Roaring Twenties.
The convoluted plot about a band of on-the-run bootleggers hiding out incognito as servants in the Long Island mansion of a feckless playboy is little more than an excuse to introduce an assortment of comic characters who frequently and joyfully break into song. When the gang's tough-talking female ringleader Billie (Amanda Lea LaVergne) falls hard for the frequently divorced, hard-drinking, irresponsible playboy Jimmy (Joey Sorge) and vice versa, the inevitable boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl scenario ensues.
Complicating matters are Jimmy's airheaded new spouse the heiress Eileen Evergreen (Breighanna Minnema), her prohibitionist Senator-judge-minister father Max (Steve Brady), his temperance leader sister the Duchess Estonia Dulworth (Sally Struthers), and the ever-vigilant police Chief Berry (Valton Jackson). Throw in a manic but highly efficient henchman turned butler Cookie McGee (James Beaman) and an unlikely romance between the social climbing debutante Jeannie Muldoon (Elyse Collier) and the loveable lunkhead "Duke" Mahoney, and you have a recipe for farcical mistaken identities and madcap misadventures.
If the pace set by director Larry Raben were not as swift and the choreography by Peggy Hickey not as keen, NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT could easily drag. But just as the nonsensical shenanigans of the book threaten to become a wee bit strained, another musical number kicks in to save the day. Early on Struthers sets the comedy bar high with a truly diabolical "Demon Rum." Later she and the show's other scene stealer Beaman as Cookie team up for a flat-out hilarious "Looking for a Boy."
Sorge and LaVergne demonstrate some serious comic chops, as well, making their on-again off-again romantic leads more than mere love interests. During a fun scene between Billie, Jimmy and Chief Berry, the duo get a chance to improvise giddily when a fantasy role play sequence gets vigorously out of hand. So good is their chemistry that they crack each other up along with the audience.
The two are also terrific with a song and dance. Individually Sorge cuts a mean rug during the show-stopping "I've Got to Be There" while LaVergne combines singing and slapstick in the hysterical "Treat Me Rough." Together they conjure memories of Fred and Ginger with a wonderful "S'Wonderful."
Since NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT is the kind of throwback era musical that gives everyone in the ensemble a chance to shine, Raben and Hickey have loaded their cast with triple and quadruple threats. The self-absorbed Minnema sings a preening "Delishious" while leading a cadre of Ziegfeld Follies-inspired chorus girls and boys in a dance of bubbles that emerge from her bathtub. Collier and Fried turn the novelty number "Blah, Blah, Blah" into a sweet and tender song of courtship. The entire company, led by Sorge and Beaman, tap it out joyously as they build "Fascinating Rhythm" into a climactic close to Act I. And even the cameo appearance of Valerie Harper* as Jimmy's mother Millicent near the end of show throws a curve ball that lets the comedy keep on coming.
Everything about Ogunquit's NICE WORK sparkles, from its comedy, singing and dancing to its sets, costumes and orchestra. For a fizzy summer treat, who could ask for anything more?
PHOTOS COURTESY OF OGUNQUIT PLAYHOUSE: The Company of NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT; Amanda Lea LaVergne as Billie Bendix and Joey Sorge as Jimmy Winter; Sally Struthers as Duchess Estonia Dulworth with the Vice Squard; James Beaman as Cookie McGee with The Chorus Girls; Aaron Fried as Duke Mahoney and Elyse Collier as Jeannie Muldoon; Breighanna Minnema as Eileen Evergreen and the Ensemble