NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT
Music and lyrics by George & Ira Gershwin
Book by Joe DiPietro
Inspired by material by Guy Bolton & P.G. Wodehouse
Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate Village, London N6 4BD to 27 January 2019.
Tues – Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm & Sun 4pm. Mat 27,28, 29 December 3pm & 3,4,5 Jan.
Runs 2 hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8340 3488
Review: William Russell 15 December.
Inspired silliness and terrific dancing
This pastiche Gershwin musical – Joe Dipetro has used their 1926 musical Oh Kay for his inspiration – was a modest Broadway success some years back, winning a couple of Tony awards, but the expected London transfer never happened. Now it is getting its UK premiere in a scintillating production directed by John Plews with some dazzling choreography by Grant Murphy which taxes the 12 strong cast to the limits. They rise to the challenge.
It is basically a back catalogue show but the musicals of that era were comic plots with songs and dances and the selection of Gershwin songs fit in perfectly. The plot is silly, and occasionally does not quite hit the right twenties note, but when it does it is inspired. DiPietro gets it dead right in the closing scenes when joke follows joke.
In a New York night club the bootleggers – this is the prohibition era – are stuck with a lorry load of booze and the Feds on the doorstep. Their leader, Billie Bendix (Jessica-Elizabeth Nelson, a powerhouse of a player) meets Jimmy Winter (Alistair So, who has all the necessary qualities of being handsome, possessing a decent voice and the ability to hoof it in the manner of Astaire required of the leading man), a filthy rich young man on his fourth marriage. Naturally it is love at first sight. He reveals he owns a Long Island beach house which he never visits, so Billie gets her fellow mobsters to take the stuff there and stash it in the cellar.
After that, inevitably, Jimmy turns up pursued by current fiancé, future father in law – an upright Republican senator – his sister, a ferocious widow who campaigns against drink, as well as the police and mayhem ensues as the bootleggers cope hopelessly with pretending to be the staff of the house. It is skilfully crafted, as were the originals, and passes the time pleasantly as a tale. But the songs are the thing, and they range from the title number but way of Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, Fascinating Rhythm and I’ve Got a Crush On You to Someone to Watch Over Me. They also include the famous Gertrude Lawrence number, Do It again, which is nicely naughty, to the less well known Will You Remember Me?
The dancing starts off on a high in the night club with the dancers in gorgeous gold costumes and just gets better. The entire cast have been drilled to what looks like perfection and some of the footwork is as ferocious and ankle bruising dangerous as anything in tango.
So and Nelson are delightful lovers, Nova Skipp does a barnstorming turn as the teetotal lady given some intoxicating lemonade, which released her inhibitions, David Pendlebury as Cookie, the obligatory wise cracking bootlegger is very funny and Fraser Fraser as the equally obligatory not all there nice sidekick, also a bootlegger, exudes the necessary charm. They are all stock characters but that is the point – they were expected in shows like the Gershwin’s twenties musicals and played by actors the audience wanted to see doing what they did best once again. The verdict on this is that it is one of the best Gatehouse Christmas shows, s’wonderful, s’marvellous and danced divinely.
There is also a very good, but just a shade too loud, six piece band. If they calmed the volume down the tiniest bit it would be even better a show.
Jimmy Winter: Alistair So.
Billie Bendix: Jessica-Elizabeth Nelson.
Estonia Dulworth: Nova Skipp.
Cookie McGee: David Pendlebury.
Eileen Evergreen: Charlotte Scally.
Jeannie Muldoon: Abigail Earnshaw.
Dottie/Milicent: Grace McInerny.
Chief Berry: Harry Cooper-Millar.
Duke Mahoney: Fraser Fraser.
Senator Max Evergreen.
Elliot: Adam Crossley.
Rosie: Kirsten Mackie.
Director: John Plews.
Musical Director: Chris Poon.
Choreographer: Grant Murphy.
Sound Designer: Nico Menghini.
Lighting Designer: Sam Waddington.
Designer: Polyanna Elston.
Voice Coach: Eleanor Boyce.
Production Photographer: Darren Bell.