Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Like Crazy For You, Nice Work If You Can Get It is a re-working of an earlier George and Ira Gershwin musical, but with a new book and with the addition of other Gershwin songs. With a talented cast, sure-footed direction, and sensational choreography, Arizona Regional Theatre's local premiere production is a fast, funny and fun two hours of musical comedy bliss.
Based on the 1926 musical Oh, Kay!, Nice Work If You Can Get It features classic songs from that show plus others the Gershwins wrote, including "Someone To Watch Over Me," "Fascinating Rhythm," "But Not For Me," and "'S Wonderful." The plot begins on the eve of the wedding ceremony for wealthy playboy Jimmy Winter's fourth marriage when he stumbles upon female bootlegger Billie after a drunken night of partying. It is 1927 and prohibition is still in full force, so Billie is more concerned about where to store her huge inventory of gin than falling in love, but sparks fly between the two when Jimmy plants a drunken kiss on Billie. The fact that the father and aunt of Jimmy's soon to be wife are a senator/judge and a prohibitionist, and that Jimmy's about to get married, only adds to the drama.
It's pretty obvious from the beginning that by the end of the show Jimmy and Billie will be together, but Joe DiPietro's book finds plenty of obstacles to get in the way of the two main characters having a "happily ever after" ending. DiPietro also includes an abundance of very funny lines and ten very funny characters that he puts into some truly hilarious situations. Making her professional directorial debut, well-known Valley actress Trisha Ditsworth does a very impressive job instilling a fast pace in the show while also ensuring that her cast get big laughs while also creating unique, humorous characters.
Mychal Leverage and Marina Blue Jarrette make a winning duo as Jimmy and Billie. Both characters are given plenty of funny moments and comical lines as well as several beloved Gershwin songs to sing. Under Ditsworth's clear direction, Leverage and Jarrette deliver the comic moments effortlessly and make their songs soar. They, like the rest of the cast, also appear to be having as much fun performing in this musical as the audience has watching it.
Darren Friedman has the expert comical abilities necessary to make the role of Cookie McGee, Billie's bootlegging partner, an audience favorite, and Lauren Berman's gorgeous singing voice and crackerjack line delivery make the role of Duchess Estonia Dulworth, the aunt of Jimmy's fiancée, a comic favorite. Both get big laughs while creating endearing characters. Katie Jurgemeyer is fun as Jimmy's fiancée Eileen, the eccentric, self-obsessed woman who is only looking out for herself, and while Sydney Davis doesn't show up until the last 15 minutes of the show, she is given some rich material to deliver as Jimmy's mother, which she excels at.
Kyle Webb and Lisa Sproul Caskey are delightful as one of Billie's partners and a chorus girl who find a mutual attraction. In smaller parts, Todd Corbeil and Kendrick Stallings provide solid comic support as Eileen's father and the police chief who is on the trail of the bootleggers, respectively.
Laurie Trygg's choreography is superb, with fresh, fun and varied steps that tie into the period of the show and are very well danced by the impressive ensemble. Kimberly Sheperd's scenic design uses a few large set elements to fairly effectively create the various locations in the show, including the exterior and interior of Jimmy's Long Island mansion. Sara Klick and Kimberly Sheperd's costume designs feature an abundance of rich and elegant period outfits along with some simple street clothes costumes for the tomboyish Billie. The four-piece band and vocals from the entire cast sound wonderful under Lincoln Wrights music direction.
Nice Work If You Can Get It is a fun throwback to classic musical comedies of the past. With grounded comedic performances that get big laughs, inspired choreography, clear direction, a cast who wring every joke out of the well-honed book, and those wonderful Gershwin tunes, Arizona Regional Theatre's production will put a smile on your face right from the beginning that you will most likely still be wearing when the show ends.
Nice Work If You Can Get It runs through March 1, 2020, for Arizona Regional Theatre, at Third Street Theatre, Phoenix Center for the Arts, Phoenix AZ. Information and tickets are available at www.arizonaregionaltheatre.org or by phone at 602-698-8668
Director: Trisha Ditsworth*
*Member, Actors' Equity Association