NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT- A new musical comedy
Music and Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, Book by Joe DiPietro
Inspired by Material by P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton
Garland Summer Musicals
Director –Joseph Jones
Music Director—Jeff Crouse
Choreography – Kelly McCain, Carl DeForrest Hendin
Original Set Design – Kelly Cox
Lighting Designer – Susan A. White
Sound Designer – Tyler Payne, Ultimate AVT, Inc.
Costume Designer – Michael A. Robinson, Suzi Cranford, Dallas Costume Shoppe
Jeannie Muldoon—Rachel Reininger
Jimmy Winter—Carl DeForrest Hendin
Speak Easy Manager—Nick Leos
Billie Bendix—Lauren Urso
Duke Mahoney—J. Alan Hanna
Cookie McGee—Steven J. Golin
Chief Berry—Aaron Gallagher
Senator Max Evergreen—James Williams
Duchess Estonia Dulworth—Patty Granville
Eileen Evergreen—Kim Borge Swarner
Millicent Winter--Melissa Tucker
The Chorus Girls: Whitnee Bomkamp, Lori Jones, Jill B. Nicholas, Caren Sharpe-Herbst, Rachel Reininger, Brittany Shahl, Shannon Walsh, Kimberely Yoxall
The Vice Squad: Nick Chabot, Kyle Fleig, Isaiah C.L. Harris, Ivan Jones, Nick Leos, Dominic Pecikonis, Mark Quach, Kenny Questell
Reviewed Performance: 7/23/2016
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Nice Work If You Can Get It is set in New York in 1927-during Prohibition. The musical is a lengthy two and a half hours, however, the high energy from this smashing cast and recognizable songs allow the audience to pay no attention to the time, and to quickly get drawn into the story, set against a backdrop of very familiar George and Ira Gershwin songs. It was quickest two and a half hours spent in a musical theatre production.
Audiences are quickly swept into this romantic tale, complete with zany comedy, mistaken identity and full scale impressive tap and dance numbers. There is everything you would expect from a musical production…boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy loses girl, and boy and girl get together again. It was a true theatrical experience.
Director Joseph Jones brought together a spectacular ensemble cast which worked well together, and collaborated with a crew that was equally as talented behind the scenes. Each element to the production fit together like a puzzle-building upon each other to create the wonderfully vibrant world of 1927 during Prohibition told by these comedic caricatures. Nice Work If You Can Get It was everything that I would expect to see in a “Gershwin” musical revue-a fantastic collection of some of the greatest songs in the American songbook, with a story wrapped around the music. The plot and characters were eccentric, and the story was very authentic to the 1920’s musical comedies of the stage and screen.
Set Designer Kelly Cox successfully transformed the proscenium stage into multiple locations. In a story with so many locations, each one was designed and conveyed with precision for detail. During the majority of the scenes, a large, intricately designed and painted backdrop was used to convey location. Usually, I am turned off by the use of backdrops. Sometimes, I feel that it is the “easy way” to convey location. They can also appear very static and two-dimensional. However, my opinion of backdrops has greatly changed after seeing this production. They actually provided a three-dimensional view of the location in which the action was taking place, and had great texture, and detail. They really helped to set the location of each scene. I was impressed with Cox’s attention to detail in each location with small set pieces that enhanced the backdrop, making it really come to life on stage. For example, scenes that took place on the “ritzy veranda” of Jimmy’s Beach house were enhanced with the suggestion of a marble buttresses that were suitable for sitting on, and also giving the stage more of the dimension it needed to complete the suggestion of a location while sitting in front of the backdrop.
This was also done in several other scenes- the dining area had a grand chandelier that was flown in to give dimension and the illusion of luxury to that area of the house, and in the “ritzy” bathroom of the home. The “ritzy” bathroom was one of my favorites. It was designed very simply, but it had a lot of marvelous details. The scene was accompanied by the song, “Delishious,” and suggested a lavish bubble bath with the “bubbly” and ditzy dancer, Eileen. The large and of course, extravagant bathtub sat in front of a piece of scenery that was painted with pink and purple bubbles-but the real treat was seeing actual three dimensional bubbles stacked onto the bathtub with what appeared to be clear glass Christmas ornament balls. Seeing Eileen singing in the tub, and then having the “chorus girls” appear two at a time (as the bath bubbles) from the bathtub was a complete homage to the madcap musicals of the 1920’s. It was very authentic, and provided a fun absence from reality- everything audiences should expect from a musical comedy farce.
Lighting Designer Susan A. White did a fantastic job plotting lighting that was appropriate and never cast distracting shadows. Through the performance, her cuing to enhance each scene was spot on. I especially enjoyed how the lighting complimented the scenic design, giving the impression of different times and locations. At times, the lighting reminded me a film-certain scenes and character’s musical numbers were left in the light, while the background behind was left in the dim light. It was a fantastic effect, and really brought the lighting and the scenic designs together, completing the suggestion and illusion of the style of the 1920’s. Michael A. Robinson, Suzi Cranford and the Dallas Costume Shoppe created and designed costumes that were not only period appropriate but also had a fine attention to detail. I love clothing from the 1920’s. To me, it was really the last “glamorous” decade, before America was ravaged by The Great Depression and World War II. America would not have another glittery or flashy style of clothing until the 1950’s. The costumes in this production are a fantastic example of the glamour wear of the 1920’s-full of vibrant colors, textures, and splashed with glitz. The chorus girls each had a unique, beautiful costume, with dazzling flapper style head wear. Everyone in the ensemble had extremely different costumes, and there was never a point in this production when I felt that costumes were similar to one another. Each ensemble player wore a unique costume (for each role) adding to their importance to the story. All this added authenticity to their roles. Costumes were visually appealing, while also giving an accurate depiction of their character’s personality, and life in 1920’s. Overall, costumes were visually appealing, stunning, and were authentic period-appropriate garb that enhanced the allusion of the production.
Carl DeForrest Hendin was incredibly believable in the role of playboy Jimmy Winter. Hendin already had this material under his top hat as he was in the National tour of this hit Gershwin musical. Through facial expression, and body language, Hendin convincingly portrayed the oft-married man caught in the middle of a gang of bootlegger’s who are looking to stash 400 cases of gin secretly at his beach house. His role was enthusiastic, and his honesty on stage was nearly constant, having appropriate interactions with everyone within the company. Hendin never faltered in his dazzling delivery. He displayed great talent in his singing and dancing abilities, also. In fact, Mr. Hendin also served as the co-choreographer for this production. He truly embodies the term “triple threat.” I have great admiration for his talents- I was especially impressed with his renditions of “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” and “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”-two personal Gershwin favorites of mine.
Billie Bendix was played by Lauren Urso. Urso was very convincing through facial expressions, body language, and line delivery. Ms. Urso was very skillful in playing the classic Gershwin ingénue. Urso provided humor and honesty to her musical numbers (“Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Treat Me Rough”), and displayed nice chemistry with Hendin, and with her fellow bootleggers’ Cookie and Duke (played humorously by Steven J. Golin and J. Alan Hanna). In one specific scene, Urso and Hendin were engaged in a very tender moment, while singing “Will You Remember Me,” demonstrating their affection for each other. I felt very engaged in their genuine chemistry for each other.
Another standout was Patty Granville in the role Duchess Estonia Dulworth the “tough-as-nails” prohibition activist. With her powerful voice and impeccable comedic timing, Granville was convincingly humorous and provided audiences with laugh after laugh during her time on stage. It was a treat to see Ms. Granville on stage. The best moment of the production was seeing the woman who was trying to rid the world of the evil spirit (“Demon Rum”) get soused, and swing from the chandelier over the dinner table, much to the surprise and shock of her Senator brother, Max Evergreen (played by James Williams).
Providing huge laughs was Kim Borge Swarner as the "first lady of Modern Dance Theater" Elieen Evergreen, who is engaged to marry Jimmy. Mind his 3rd wife, but who's counting! Swarner never once dropped character, each time she entered she danced this mash up of Twyla Tharp and Agnes De Mille-if they had a few swigs of that bathtub gin! Wrapping her hilarious facial expressions was a high pitched squeaky voice that sealed in her comedic finesse. Swarner had one of the best musical numbers of the evening titled "Delishious" that was filled with frothy dancers and bubbles!
This production of Nice Work If You Can Get It is definitely worth seeing. From the moment the overture begins, and the recognizable songs are previewed, you will be enthralled. Whether you are the young, or the young-at-heart, Nice Work will be an energetic, and old-fashioned theatrical spectacle, set to some of the greatest songs from the great American songbook. Hurry, you have a short time to see Nice Work If You Can Get It at The Garland Summer Musicals. It’s “s’wonderful, its s’marvelous,” its ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’-let Garland Summer Musicals show you now!
The Garland Summer Musicals
Granville Arts Center, 300 N. 5th Street, Garland, TX 75040
Plays through July 31.
Friday, July 29, 2016 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, July 30, 2016 at 8:00 pm
Sunday, July 31, 2016 at 2:30 pm
Ticket prices are as follows:
$30.00 for Adults, $26.00 for Seniors, $24.00 for Student/Youth
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.garlandboxoffice.com or call the box office at 972-205-2790.