Theater Review: “Nice Work If You Can Get It” Is Top-Notch Entertainment


Review by James McDonald

Set in 1920s Long Island during the prohibition, the musical tells the tale of charming and wealthy playboy Jimmy Winter, who meets rough female bootlegger Billie Bendix the weekend of his wedding. Thinking Jimmy will be out of town, Billie and her gang hide cases of alcohol in the basement of Jimmy’s Long Island mansion until he returns sooner than expected.

The Music Hall at Fair Park is a terrific venue for any sort of stage production, whether it be plays or musicals, it has enormous capacity to accommodate any size production. I attended opening night along with my mother and afterwards, she said she hadn’t had that much fun in years and I have to agree with her, although I am not a fan of movie musicals, watching and listening to them on stage is a completely different feeling and I found myself clapping and cheering intermittently along with the rest of the audience.

“Nice Work If You Can Get It” is based on the book by two-time Tony Award-winner Joe DiPietro and features music and lyrics by George & Ira Gershwin. The story begins in Long Island during the beginning of prohibition in 1920. Wealthy playboy Jimmy Winter (Alex Enterline) is having his bachelor party the night before he is due to marry his third wife, Eileen (Rachael Scarr). After leaving the bar, he stumbles across Billie Bendix (Mariah MacFarlane), a bootlegger who is trying to hide her stash of gin along with her fellow companions, Cookie (Reed Campbell) and Duke (Aaron Fried).

Jimmy is instantly smitten with Billie but she is more interested in trying to hide her alcohol and when Jimmy hears this, in a drunken stupor, he divulges that he has a large mansion in Long Island that he hardly ever uses before promptly passing out. Billie steals his wallet and gets the address and the next day, the trio proceed to hide their gin in the mansion’s basement only to be surprised when Jimmy and his soon-to-be wife enter the house. With Cookie dressed up as a butler and Duke a chef, just in case the feds happen to drop by, they end up staying in the house to fulfill their corresponding duties while Billie pretends to be an English maid, all so they can keep an eye on their nest egg.

Naturally, Jimmy’s prospective wife Eileen is totally in love with herself and we can see, early on, that it is Billie who he is meant to be with but of course, if Jimmy doesn’t marry, he will be cut off from his family’s estate so we must first endure some hysterical and laugh-out loud high jinks which includes Eileen’s father, Senator Max Evergreen (Benjamin Perez) and his sister, Duchess Estonia Dulworth (Stephanie Harter Gilmore), who has brought along her Vice Squad and vows to rid society of its greatest evil (“Demon Rum”). The play overall, is light and frothy and thankfully, never takes itself too seriously.

There are some priceless scene-stealing performances and a terrific blend of chemistry and humor from all involved accompanied by a lively musical score from a wonderful live orchestra, under the direction of Charlie Reuter. The depth of talent presented, even in smaller roles is very impressive and the set design is first rate. If you’re looking for an enjoyable and stimulating evening, look no further but hurry, the production ends on September 14th.

Now at the Music Hall at Fair Park through September 14th

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nice poster

James McDonald
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