Saturday, January 31, 2015

Nice Work If You Can Get It Theatre Review

Nice Work If You Can Get It (Photos: Jeremy Daniel)

Party in the Cellar!

There's something ritzy about the Tony-winning musical Nice Work If You Can Get It at the venerable Warner Theatre. Funny too... really funny with an uplifting energy that hits the spot on a blustery, cold night in the nation's capital. Hang on a sec: Am I singing praises for a broadway musical again? Yes! My musical metamorphosis continues, thanks to an odd assortment of bootleggers, chorus girls and (shudder) bigamists. What is the world coming to?

After a 20-minute delay (it was opening night, we'll let it pass) we're introduced to Jimmy Winter, the aforementioned bigamist with money and a smile. He's celebrating his last night of bachelorhood for the third or fourth time (the numbers are kinda fuzzy, just ask Jimmy) and is predictably drunk, horny and stupid. Drinking and partying are big no-no's (the story is set during Prohibition) and he runs into bootlegger Billie (Mariah MacFarlane) before and after a raid by the police... That should make for a great story to tell the grandkids, don't you think?

Mariah MacFarlane & Alex Enterline (r)

Jimmy and Billie cross paths again at the former's supposedly abandoned Long Island beach house. Unbeknownst to Jimmy, Billie and her pals have stashed 400 cases of bootleg gin in his basement. Now instead of an intimate honeymoon hideaway, the beach house turns into Animal House in the blink of an eye. Can you say, "Party in the cellar?"

As luck would have it, everyone in town finds their way here; and thank Heaven, they do. That means bootlegger Cookie (a terrific Reed Campbell) who disguises himself as the most reluctant & politically incorrect butler of all-time. He's a great addition to the mix, and provides a lion's share of laughs interacting with all the principal characters. Speaking of great... Look no further than Rachael Scarr as Jimmy's blushing (and hard-to-get) bride Eileen Evergreen. Her rendition of "Delishious" complete with Bubble Girls and guys is worth the cost of admission alone. Who knew so many people could fit in a bathtub? Come to think of it, who knew you could hold up a mirror with your foot? Now that's vanity!

Rachael Scarr and the "Bubble Girls"

Alex Enterline does a good job as Jimmy, a role made famous by Matthew Broderick. He's incredibly charming and funny, "Don't hit me! I'm very wealthy," but slips a bit as a singer. That said, his chemistry with Billie is instant and compelling. Better yet, he appears perfectly at ease on stage without any sort of pretenses you'd expect from a philandering momma's boy with an eye on a big inheritance. He's the sort of the character that earns a great many of the passes he gets in life.

MacFarlane plays a delightful foil... spunky with a Ginger Rogers-quality and a pretty voice ("Someone to Watch Over Me.") She shows comedic chops too, especially when flashing her "female stuff, female stuff," during a hilarious version of "Treat Me Rough." Lest you think I'm talking nudity, fear not... everyone mistakes her moves for "a bad shoulder." It's all part of the show... almost family-friendly, were it not for the scantly clad chorus girls, bigamy, etc. etc.

Stephanie Gandolfo & Aaron Fried (r)

Set design is immersive and appealing; and the late Martin Pakledinaz's costumes are first rate (despite the chorus girls' determined efforts to strip them off.) Dance numbers are performed with rabid enthusiasm, save for some of the more timid numbers with Jimmy and Billie. Chemistry, across the boards is top-notch.

It's hard to go wrong with George and Ira Gershwin: Their music fits this show like a glove. The entire production is upbeat and fun. Whether it's Cookie's "Jumping butterballs!" or the site of Billie singing her heart out... with a shotgun in her hands, you can count on lots of laughs and plenty of good will. The show isn't without its hiccups (the Duchess and her Vice Squad leap to mind) but if a guy like me can be entertained, it stands to reason it's pretty darn good. Party on!

Grade: B