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April Boyle

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Follow her on Twitter: @ahboyle

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Posted: July 27, 2015

Theater Review: ‘Nice Work’ at Ogunquit Playhouse is memorable, captivating

Written by: April Boyle
Photo by Gary Ng

Photo by Gary Ng

Stars, broads, bootleggers, colorful choreography and well-known Gershwin songs, combined with an intoxicating brew of laughter and Americana pizzazz, make Ogunquit Playhouse’s rendition of Joe DiPietro’s musical “Nice Work If You Can Get It” a memorable evening.

The musical is directed by Larry Raben and based on the George and Ira Gershwin comedy “Oh, Kay!” The 10-time Tony-nominated prohibition-era musical debuted on Broadway in 2012, starring Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara as Jimmy Winter and Billie Bendix. When the drunken playboy meets the scrappy bootlegger on the eve of his wedding, sparks fly, and a harebrain bootlegging scheme is set in motion.

Broadway stars Joey Sorge and Amanda Lea LaVergne slip into the lovebirds’ roles for Ogunquit’s production. Their chemistry is as sweet and sassy as a 1920s Bee’s Knees cocktail.

Sorge pours on the goofy boyish charm that, combined with nimble-footed dancing and crooner-like vocals, make him irresistible. And, LaVergne is a vocal and comedic dynamite, particularly on “Someone To Watch Over Me,” delivered with a loaded riffle in hand.

Laughter bubbles to the surface throughout the frothy musical comedy, with James Beaman stirring up fun as Billie’s bootlegging buddy, Cookie McGee. His wisecracking antics pack a comedic punch as his character masquerades as Jimmy’s beach house butler in order to stash booze in the oblivious playboy’s basement.

Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Sally Struthers returns to the Ogunquit Playhouse stage as prohibitionist Duchess Estonia Dulworth. Struthers rivals Beaman for scene-stealing antics. The audience was doubled over with laughter Friday night as she licked every last drop of spiked lemonade from her goblet, swung from the chandelier over the banquet table and exited the scene by carrying off Beaman, who was slung over her shoulder.

Television icon Valerie Harper joins Struthers, making her Ogunquit Playhouse debut as Jimmy’s mother, Millicent Winter. Harper has a commending presence, and is a delight to see on Ogunquit’s stage.

There’s a champagne opulence to Ogunquit’s production, with Gatsby-esque sets by Shoko Kambara and dazzling costumes by Martin Pakledinaz. The vice squad’s neon pinstripe suits coordinate with the chorus girls gowns, making Peggy Hickey’s sensational choreography all the more vibrant and captivating on such numbers as the tap-dancing showcase, “Fascinating Rhythm.”

The costumes also pop in the fantasy number, “Delishious,” starring Breighanna Minnema, as Jimmy’s new wife, Eileen Evergreen. Minnema is non-stop fun as she preens in the tub, while her bath bubbles come to life and dance around the stage. The number is both outrageous and gorgeous.

The production has a strong cast of actors and dancers who know how to keep the laughter flowing. Standouts include Aaron Fried as bootlegger Duke Mahoney, Elyse Collier as chorus girl Jeannie Muldoon, Steve Brady as Eileen’s father and Valton Jackson as the soulful-voiced Chief Berry.

Musical Director Charlie Reuter, who conducted the First National Tour of “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” leads Ogunquit Playhouse’s talented eight-piece orchestra.

The musical is a toe-tapping extravaganza that pays tribute to the golden age of the Gershwins, with such beloved songs as “I’ve Got A Crush On You,” “Looking For A Boy,” “But Not For Me” and “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.”

With a memorable score, captivating choreography and star-studded cast, “Nice Work If You Can Get It” isn’t just nice, it’s “S Wonderful.”

THEATER REVIEW

WHAT: “Nice Work If You Can Get It” by Ogunquit Playhouse
WHERE: 10 Main St., Ogunquit
DATE REVIEWED: July 24; musical runs through August 15
TICKETS: $44-$84
CONTACT: 646-5511; www.ogunquitplayhouse.org

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