Pioneer Press Review: Ordway’s ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ is all play

Renee Valois, Pioneer Press 10/16/14

“Nice Work If You Can Get It” at the Ordway has all the depth of a shot glass — but it goes down easy.

There are no real people in the Prohibition-era story, just ridiculous caricatures. However, there are some real great songs by George and Ira Gershwin, repurposed by Joe DiPietro in his goofy book — and the choreography is inspired.

Director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall puts the cardboard cast of this touring production through some very fancy footwork, evoking the golden age of Hollywood. Men roll across the floor to propel the hero lying atop them. The hero and heroine prance across tables and chairs. The “Vice Squad” sports jerky, angular dancing with spread-fingered glad hands that suggest Dick Tracy comics.

The thin excuse for a plot throws together a tough, female bootlegger (Mariah MacFarlane) and a rich, handsome, but brainless heir (Alex Enterline) in 1927. Is there any doubt that the two opposites will end up together — just like all the other mismatched couples in the show? The more different they are, the more destined they are for each other.

Although we feel no emotional investment in the characters, at least the humor bumps up in the second half. The Senator/Judge/Preacher father of the fiancée that the hero intends to make his fourth wife is the “most moral” person (which means he’s not) — and politicians get skewered.

Scenes also get stolen — notably by Stephanie Harter Gilmore as the Duchess singing “By Strauss” in counterpoint to Reed Campbell as Cookie the bootlegger singing “Sweet and Lowdown.” They could not be more opposite (you know what that means).

Besides those tunes and the title song, there are lots of favorites, including “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “S’Wonderful,” “Fascinating Rhythm,” “I’ve Got a Crush On You”–as well as instrumental bits from great Gershwin pieces such as “Rhapsody in Blue.” The singing is pleasant but not extraordinary — except when Gilmore soars into high operatic territory.

Barbara Weetman commands the stage as the hero’s mother, even though she’s only on for a short time. Surprisingly, she manages to carve reality into her character, in spite of the cotton candy world around her.

There’s a lot to look at, with all that movement and colorful, exaggerated 1920s fashions re-imagined by costume designer Martin Pakledinaz.

The cake may be ordinary, but the frosting is delicious.

Read the full article online here.

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