What do bootlegging, tap dancing and Sally Struthers have in common? They’re all on stage at the Gateway Playhouse in its current production of Nice Work If You Can Get It. If you’re in the mood for some big time belly laughs, this show is for you!
Nice Work is a lighthearted, boisterous production with exhilarating tap dance numbers and a plot that, while predictable, is a treat for the senses to watch unfold before you. Set in the Roaring ’20s in the midst of Prohibition, with great period songs by George and Ira Gershwin and talent directly from Broadway and the silver screen, Nice Work is irresistible.
Although many theatergoers will be drawn in by the amazing Struthers, who is top-notch, of course, many will also be blown away by the spectacular talents of the captivating leads. Joey Sorge as the dashingly handsome Jimmy Winter is captivating. This smooth crooner had me melting—especially when he sang falsetto. Sorge is romantic and utterly charming as Jimmy, a wealthy playboy who has never worked a day in his life but is on to his third—or fourth?—loveless marriage, as he is about to tie the knot with the self-proclaimed best dancer in America, the spoiled-rotten Eileen Evergreen.
On the night of his bachelor party Jimmy drunkenly stumbles upon Billie Bendix, played by Amanda Lea Lavergne. Lavergne has a powerful voice that is perfect for this role. Billie is no delicate flower, and Lavergne is charming as the uncoordinated, boyish and tough Billie. Billie is a bootlegger, and she and her pals Cookie and Duke are working that night, trying to find a place to store the 400 cases of rum they have stowed away on their ship. Billie discovers that Jimmy has a large beach house on Long Island, and decides that will be the perfect place for her and her bootlegging friends to hide their hooch. While singing “Treat Me Rough,” Billie works—to great comic effect—to seduce Jimmy with her decidedly un-sexy moves. Jimmy is completely smitten with the adorable Billie, and the two are on track and falling hard for each other.
Struthers plays Duchess Estonia Dulworth and she is as entertaining as one could hope. Her deadpan expressions and dry wit had the audience hooting with laughter. She and Cookie, played by a very funny James Beaman, have a crackling chemistry together and play off of each other delightfully. The scene where Cookie gets the uptight, noble temperance leader drunk and swinging from the chandelier in the number “Looking for a Boy” is surely one of the funniest sequences I have ever witnessed.
Playing Jimmy’s spoiled fiancée Eileen is the delightful Breighanna Minnema, who is wonderful as the shallow and self-absorbed socialite. A favorite playful scene comes as Eileen indulges in a long bath and we are treated to the song “Delishious” which has to be the most delightful bit of nonsense I’ve seen in a long time. Minnema plays the high-pitched part perfectly.
Billie’s friend Duke Mahoney, played by Aaron Fried, falls for one of Jimmy’s dancing girls Jeannie Muldoon, played by Elyse Collier, and the two share a touching duet titled “Blah, Blah, Blah” that I found hysterically sweet and lovely.
Steve Brady returns to the Gateway stage as Eileen’s father, the Reverend Senator Judge Max Evergreen, and Leslie Alexander plays Jimmy’s mother, Millicent Winter, who has some impressive, ironic secrets to share.
Some of my favorite numbers of the night included the namesake song “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” sung sweetly (if a bit drunkenly) by Jimmy to Billie the night they meet. Struthers’ number “Looking for a Boy” is pure fun, as is “S’Wonderful” and “Fascinating Rhythm,” which takes us tap-dancing into intermission.
All in all, Nice Work is a solid musical that demonstrates the power of lyrics in its music. With a spectacularly talented cast and chorus, the second installment in Gateway’s summer season is undoubtedly another hit—nice work!
Nice Work If You Can Get It is at the Gateway Playhouse, 215 South Country Road, Bellport, now through June 27. For tickets and information visit gatewayplayhouse.org or visit the box office Monday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. or Sunday between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.