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Bootleg Whiskey, Wild Women, and Gershwin Give “Nice Work If You Can Get It” Its Kick

Mariah MacFarlane and Alex Enterline star as Billie Bendix and Jimmy Winter in "Nice Work If You Can Get It" (photo by Jeremy Daniel)

Mariah MacFarlane and Alex Enterline star as feisty bootlegger Billie Bendix and wealthy playboy Jimmy Winter in Work Light Productions’ nifty National Tour of “Nice Work If You Can Get It” (photo by Jeremy Daniel)

Bootleg whiskey, the Roaring Twenties version of “Girls Gone Wild,” and a plethora toe-tapping Gershwin tunes give Work Light Productions’ current National Tour of the 2012 Tony Award®-winning musical comedy, Nice Work If You Can Get It, its kick. This invigorating romp, set in Prohibition era New York City in 1927 and jointly presented in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium by Broadway Series South and the North Carolina Theatre, boasts a knee-slapping script by two-time Tony Award®-winner Joe DiPietro, and ingeniously repurposes some of the classic show tunes, songs, and instrumental music written by composer George Gershwin (1898-1937) and his older brother, lyricist Ira Gershwin (1896-1983), into a crowd-pleasing screwball comedy. When the curtain rises, filthy-rich but dissolute playboy Jimmy Winter (played by Alex Enterline) — on the eve of his ill-omened fourth marriage (to mercenary modern dancer Eileen Evergreen (Rachel Scarr) — gets stinko at his bachelor party and literally runs into spunky tomboyish bootlegger Billie Bendix (Mariah MacFarlane) outside of a speak easy — and zing goes the strings of his heart … again!

Threatened with disinheritance by his fed-up mother, Millicent (Barbara Weetman), if he doesn’t turn over a new leaf — heck, an entire forest might not be enough, in Jimmy’s case — the free-spirited Man-About-Town must agree to “settle down,” and exchange his glad-rags for the gray flannel suit of a responsible husband and breadwinner. In other words, this Social Butterfly must agree to have his wings clipped and marry into an ultra-conservative family that includes his obnoxious future father-in-law, the insufferable Senator-Reverend-Judge Max Evergreen (Benjamin Perez), and Evergreen’s equally insufferable sister, rabid anti-alcohol crusader Duchess Estonia Dulworth (Stephanie Harter Gilmore), founder of the unfortunately named Society of Dry Women.

Aaron Fried, Reed Campbell, and Mariah MacFarlane are hilarious as bootleggers Duke Mahoney, Cookie McGee, and Billie Bendix in the "Nice Work If You Can Get It" (photo by Jeremy Daniel)

Aaron Fried, Reed Campbell, and Mariah MacFarlane are hilarious as bootleggers Duke Mahoney, Cookie McGee, and Billie Bendix in “Nice Work If You Can Get It” (photo by Jeremy Daniel)

When beautiful lady bootlegger Billie Bendix and her male cohorts — Reed Campbell as foxy con man Cookie McGee and Aaron Fried as dimwitted muscle Duke Mahoney, elude NYC’s finest boys in blue and hide their hot stash of bootleg liquor in the basement of the swanky Long Island beach house that Jimmy Winter has bragged to Billie that he never visits, the stage is set for a series of unexpected and increasingly amusing confrontations between high society guys and dolls and the socially unacceptable low-life bootleggers who supply them with their giggle juice, but are otherwise beyond the pale.

Spirited performances, vibrant vocals, and dazzling dance routines — the latter recreated by tour director and choreographer David Eggers from the vivacious 2012 Tony-nominated musical staging of original Broadway director and choreographer and three-time Tony winner Kathleen Marshall — turn this touring version of Nice Work If You Can Get It into a must-see musical, and brought Tuesday’s opening-night audience to their feet to reward the actors and musicians with a well-deserved standing ovation.

Alex Enterline and Mariah MacFarlane have potent comic and romantic chemistry and sing beautifully as unlikely lovers Jimmy Winter and Billie Bendix, who fall head-over-heels in love at a time when Billie’s gang is desperately trying to conceal 400 cases of illicit hooch from a growing swarm of local cops and federal agents, Jimmy’s bossy fiancée, his reactionary soon-to-be father-in-law, Eileen’s vehemently anti-alcohol aunt, and an increasingly suspicious and persistent Long Island police chief named Berry (Thomas Schario)

"Nice Work If You Can Get It" stars Rachael Scarr as Eileen Evergreen (photo by Jeremy Daniel)

“Nice Work If You Can Get It” stars Rachael Scarr as Eileen Evergreen (photo by Jeremy Daniel)

Rachel Scarr is a hoot as Eileen Evergreen, the Isadora Duncan-like self-proclaimed world’s “finest interpreter of Modern Dance”; and Benjamin Perez struts and frets hilariously as the stuffed-shirt Senator-Reverend-Judge Max Evergreen. But it is Stephanie Harter Gilmore who steals the show with her operatic vocals and her imperious demeanor as Duchess Estonia Dulworth, who has a side-splitting swing from a chandelier after Cookie, posing as Jimmy Winter’s new butler (it’s a long story!), maliciously spikes her lemonade at the wedding rehearsal dinner.

Aaron Fried as Duke and especially Reed Campbell as Cookie keep the audience chuckling throughout the show. Fried’s fumbling, bumbling, and stumbling and Campbell’s conniving are delightful. Stephanie Gandolfo is likewise amusing as confused chorus girl Jeannie Muldoon; and Barbara Weetman contributes a crisp comic cameo as Jimmy’s mother, Millicent Winter, who is fed up with her feckless son.

Tour scenic designer Shoko Kambara’s snazzy sets, based on the original Broadway scenic design of Derek McLane, and costume designer Martin Pakledinaz’s vivid vintage costumes make Nice Work If You Get It a feast for the eye. But it is the glorious Gershwin soundtrack — a veritable feast for the ear — that will set audience’s toes to tapping, and will send them out into the night humming familiar tunes that they will now remember in the new context of this Tony Award-winning 2012 musical.

Stephanie Harter Gilmore steals the show with her outrageous antics as rabid anti-alcohol crusader Duchess Estonia Dulworth (photo by Jeremy Daniel)

Stephanie Harter Gilmore steals the show with her outrageous antics as rabid anti-alcohol crusader Duchess Estonia Dulworth (photo by Jeremy Daniel)

SECOND OPINION: Jan. 21st Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Jeffrey Karasarides: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Reviews-NICE-WORK-IF-YOU-CAN-GET-IT-National-Tour-at-North-Carolina-Theatre-20150121; and Jan. 18th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2015/01/17/4481205/next-stop-broadway-on-tour.html.

Broadway Series South and the North Carolina Theatre present NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT at 7:30 p.m. Jan.  23 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24 and Jan. 25 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $37.32-$116.74 (including fees). BOX OFFICE:

NCT Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext. 6944, or http://www.nctheatre.com/2015-shows.

Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/1967710.

BSS GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-996-8707 group@raleighconvention.com, or http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/broadway-series-south/group-sales.

NCT GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6941, ext. 5204; ntheis@nctheatre.com; or http://www.nctheatre.com/tickets/group-sales.

SHOW: http://www.nctheatre.com/shows/nice-work, http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/nice-work-if-you-can-get-it-5180, and https://www.facebook.com/events/615496478569331/.

VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oBhXQpqTAI and http://www.niceworkontour.com/video/.

PRESENTERS:

Broadway Series South: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/broadway-series-south, https://www.facebook.com/broadwayseriessouthraleigh, and https://twitter.com/BroadwaySouth.

North Carolina Theatre: http://www.nctheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/nctheatre, https://twitter.com/nctheatre, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/nctheatre.

BSS 2015 SEASON: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/broadway-series-south.

NCT 2015 SEASON: http://www.nctheatre.com/2015-shows.

BSS BLOG: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/blog/news-events.

NCT BLOG (Stage Notes): http://www.nctheatre.com/stage-notes. VENUE: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/venue/memorial-auditorium.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/directions.

PARKING: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/parking.

OTHER LINKS:

Nice Work If You Can Get It (2012 Broadway musical): http://www.niceworkontour.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=491373 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nice_Work_If_You_Can_Get_It_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).

George Gershwin (Brooklyn, NY-born composer, 1898-1937): http://www.gershwin.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=5813 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Gershwin (Wikipedia.

Ira Gershwin (New York City-born lyricist, 1896-1983): http://www.gershwin.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=6435 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ira_Gershwin (Wikipedia).

Joe DiPietro (Teaneck, NJ-born playwright and lyricist): http://www.rnh.com/bio/88/DiPietro-Joe (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=383115 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_DiPietro (Wikipedia).

Kathleen Marshall (Pittsburgh, PA-born Broadway director and choreographer): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=1296 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathleen_Marshall (Wikipedia).

David Eggers (National Tour director and choreographer): http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=76406 (Internet Broadway Database).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing robertm748@aol.com and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail robertm748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews