**** Highly Recommended **** Hurry and get your tickets, Theatre at the Center’s “Nice Work If You Can Get It” is downright fun! It’s got a terrific cast wearing gorgeous costumes, fabulous music and amazing choreography. I think it’s a sign of a good time when everyone leaves the theater smiling – and they did! “Nice Work If You Can Get It” gets 4 BIG Spotlights.
At intermission, someone said to me that she didn’t know a musical could be so funny. I actually laughed until my face hurt! In fact, “Nice Work If You Can Get It” is a musical farce. It has all of the elements of a farce: a ridiculous situation, mistaken identities, slapstick humor, pratfalls and multiple doors.
“Nice Work I You Can Get It” was written around the music of George and Ira Gershwin. Along with title song, “Nice Work …”, you’ll hear “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “Delishious”, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”, “Do It Again”, “’S Wonderful”, “Fascinating Rhythm” – and that‘s just Act I! You’ll even hear bits of “American in Paris” and “Rhapsody in Blue” as segues.
The story is set in a New York speakeasy and a Long Island mansion during Prohibition. An aside – did you ever notice that lyricists of the day (like Cole Porter and the Gershwin brothers) wrote really risqué lyrics filled with attitude and sexy double entendres. What with all the bathtub gin, speakeasies, flappers, and general scorn for the law, the era earned the appellation, Roaring Twenties.
A wealthy, and not especially smart, playboy, Jimmy Winter (Justin Brill), is celebrating the night before his third or maybe his fourth wedding in a speakeasy. He’s marrying Elena Evergreen (Julie Baird), a modern dancer and daughter of powerful Senator Max Evergreen (Rick Rapp).
Billie Bendix (Erica Stephan) and her cohorts, Cookie McGee (Stef Tovar) and Duke Mahoney (John Stemberg), have a shipment of bootleg booze which needs to be hidden from the Feds. When one of the gang hears about Jimmy’s empty mansion, they decide to hide their booze in the cellar.
When Jimmy arrives at the house while they’re unloading, the gang masquerades as the staff, Cookie donning the butler’s tux, Duke a chef’s hat. Elena puts off Jimmy’s amorous advances until after her bath – where she gazes into multiple mirrors while singing “Delishious” to herself. Meanwhile, Jimmy meets Billie – still in her bootlegger’s slacks and cap – and he’s smitten.
When Senator Evergreen and his sister, Estonia Dulworth (Laura Freeman), the Duchess of Woodford arrive for the wedding, the Senator threatens Jimmy – an immediate wedding or else! Meanwhile, Estonia, a leader in Women’s Temperance, is sniffing “Demon Rum” in the house. There are a couple of really incredible plot twists, but it’s generally a happily ever after ending.
I can’t say enough about Danny Herman’s wonderful choreography! At one point, I felt like I was watching Fred and Ginger dancing. There was a little bit of soft shoe, a lot of Charleston, all in the correct time period.
The set, designed by Richard and Jacqueline Penrod, a little more complex than what TATC usually has, was exactly right. Brenda Winstead’s flapper costumes were all sparkly and gorgeous. Kudos to Bill Pullinsi et al on a terrific production.
“Nice Work If You Can Get It” runs through June 5th at Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster. Running time is 2 hours, 35 minutes, with an intermission. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2:00 pm; Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm; and select Thursday and Sunday evenings and Saturday matinees. Tickets range from $40-$44. Parking is plentiful and free. FYI (219) 836-3255, (800) 511-1552 or www.theatreatthecenter.com.