BWW Interviews: Getting to Know Mariah MacFarlane of NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT

Saint Paul's Ordway Center for Performing Arts welcomes a show that feels familiar, yet you can be sure you have not seen it before... unless you happened to make the run on Broadway last year starring Matthew Broderick (which yours truly did happen to see in April 2013!). It's an old fashioned musical comedy built around hit songs you are more than familiar with: classic Gershwin hits, including "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "Fascinating Rhythm." Set against the backdrop of the Roaring Twenties, this Tony® Award-winning musical comedy is bursting with charm and great music. The first national tour is lead by Mariah MacFarlane, who plays Billie Bendix. BWW Minneapolis had a chance to get to know a little about this young actress.

BWW: You recently started this first national tour of NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT - How has the experience been so far? How are audiences responding to the show?

MM: The experience has been amazing. This show appeals to so many people and I never get tired of hearing roaring laughter every night. People have told me how they showed up to the performance tired and left with all this energy that put them in a great mood. The cast is so talented and I really love getting to do this as my job every day.

Had you seen the show yourself during the Broadway run with Matthew Broderick & Kelli O'Hara or Jessie Mueller before you were cast?

MM: Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see this show while on Broadway. However, Kelli O'Hara is a longtime idol of mine, and getting to follow in her footsteps is such a privilege.

Audiences nationwide will be more familiar with the Gershwin tunes than the story of NICE WORK. Can you tell our readers, in a nutshell, what the show is about?

MM: The show is a modern take on an old style of musical. There are a group of bootleggers (it's set in the Prohibition era) trying to hide their gin until they can sell it and they stumble upon a wealthy playboy, Jimmy, whose empty Long Island mansion provides an ideal hiding spot. Of course, it doesn't stay abandoned for long because Jimmy and his new fiancé and other characters show up and chaos ensues. The show showcases two total opposite people falling in love against all odds and being so genuine in their comedic selves that you can't help but laugh at their attempts to love and get away with all their crazy schemes.

Was the Gershwin music familiar to you or have you had to learn it for this show? What is your favorite number?

MM: I am very familiar with this music. I grew up playing many of these songs on my piano from a book my great grandmother gave me. "Someone To Watch Over Me" is my favorite solo to sing because I never dreamed I would get to perform that iconic song on stage with a band, and now I also get to perform it with a shotgun. I also enjoy "S' Wonderful" because I grew up watching Fred and Ginger movies and that number is me getting to live it in real life. It is so fun and full of love that I can't help but smile through the whole number.

What is one thing that readers should watch for in your production - an insider secret to something they may not notice otherwise?

MM: There are so many running jokes that appear throughout and fly by so quickly it's hard for even the cast to keep up with all of them.

We'll try to keep up then! ...While both are modern, new musicals, your prior tour (AMERICAN IDIOT) was such a different show than this one; going from a rock show to a period musical. Have there been any differences in the overall experience for you as an actor, or are you finding that life on tour is similar so far?

MM: Tour life is pretty much tour life anywhere, with the hectic schedule and hotel living, but my experience as an actor in this show is totally different. Funny enough, this show is actually more difficult vocally than AMERICAN IDIOT because of the effected accent and amount of singing I do, I really have to be conscious of pacing myself and taking care of myself every day. I do get to bring that toughness I had in AMERICAN IDIOT to this fierce bootlegger in this show, and that is really fun.

You graduated from college just over a year ago and are already on your second tour -- did you feel prepared for this world straight out of college or have you learned a billion things since then?

MM: Both! I have always been ready to take my career to the big world of touring Broadway shows and making this my career, but there are so many things about touring with a show every day and performing for different audiences that college just can't possibly teach you. I received such wonderful acting and singing training that allowed me to jump right in, but I have also learned so much more about myself as a performer now living and breathing the business.

What is your career plan from here? Do you have dreams of doing any specific shows in the future?

MM: I have some long-standing dream shows (LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, ONCE, SOUTH PACIFIC). I would also like to originate a Broadway cast one day, but my long-term dream is just to keep getting paid to do theatre every day. This business changes every day and I would go just about anywhere in the world to keep singing, dancing, acting and bringing joy to audiences. I am very lucky to be in this business and I would like to stay for as long as possible.

NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT takes the Ordway Theatre stage Oct. 14-19, 2014. Tickets start at $36 and can be purchased online at, by phone at 651-224-4222 or in person at the Ordway ticket office.

Photo: Mariah MacFarlane (Billie Bendix) in the NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT
national tour. (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)

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From This Author Kristen Hirsch Montag