Nice Work If You Can Get It premiered in 2012, with it’s toe tapping Gershwin score, and it’s fast paced, witty script is designed to hook the audience right from the opening bars of the overture and boy did Savoyards’ Queensland premier production succeed. Reuniting the team behind their smash hit production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, the company has again exhibited it’s commitment to excellence in community theatre.
As director, Sherryl-Lee Secomb leads her cast, and production team with a clearly thought out design for the show. The cast showed wonderfully throughout that they had been drilled in their direction and each member showed a clear understanding of their journey throughout the show. Secomb displays pure genius in the way that the show is put together with a single clear vision from top to bottom, not neglecting any element, from the way each individual character carried themselves, to the way they sat, her direction of the show is an utter triumph. A particular nod to the direction team must be made for the attention to detail shown in each principal character’s development throughout the show.
One of the things that I love the most about community theatre is that there are always so many people of different backgrounds participating. These are sentiments echoed by Nice Work If You Can Get It’s choreographer Desney Toia-Sinapati, who discusses the challenges and highlights of working with dancers of different talent levels. The choreography for the show is, in a word, flawless. It offered moments of sheer, hilarious brilliance that often had the audience in stitches and served to highlight and expand on all of the beats of the show. It was also executed so confidently by the cast that you would not be able to distinguish any difference of level between the ensemble and this is such a tribute to the many hours that were obviously spent drilling each routine.
Where would a Gershwin score be without a phenomenal orchestra to play it? Musical director Geoffrey Secomb led both the orchestra, and the cast through the complex score filled with big number after big number, and landed every last one of them successfully. The score for this show is not an easy one, with complex vocal harmonies featured for the chorus, well known Gershwin standards featuring throughout, and often competing harmony lines. This show would be a handful for any musical director but Secomb, whose conducting and MD credits include Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story, and of course the Del Arte Chart recognised (4 times over) 2015 production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, is more than up to the challenge, and produces a show that sounds every bit as good as it looks.
As the debonair playboy Jimmy Winter, Clay English was a treat. He walked the line between charming, caring, and self servicing easily and was entirely believable in his role. For two hours he effortlessly sang and danced his way across the stage and charmed his way into the heart of both the audience and his onstage partner Billie Bendix.
Billie Bendix (Emily Vascotto) is a delightful role for a skilled character actor. Originated on Broadway by Kelli O’Hara a veteran and a powerhouse, however it would be hard to imagine anyone playing the role with more finesse and skill than Vascotto. The role of Billie Bendix requires rapid change of accent, a fabulous ability to be uncomfortable onstage, her delivery of “Treat Me Rough” is perfection, a wonderfully soaring vocal ability, and to show the transition between a tough skinned bootlegger, and a vulnerable woman falling in love for the first time and exploring all that that entails. Vascotto’s performance was masterful.
Every good heroine needs a foil, and in Eileen Evergreen (Grace Clarke), Bendix certainly finds hers. Clarke brings the snarky, self absorbed, preening dancer to life wonderfully. Some characters get the most amazing performance opportunities, and Eileen Evergreen is one of these. In particular the Act 1 scene stealing bath time number “Delishious” was a masterpiece of theatre in every way and highlighted the clearly developed style and era of the show.
Some characters are the glue of a show, and that can certainly be said for Cookie McGee (Warryn James). Cookie is the lynch pin that keeps the entire precarious plot balancing along, and requires an actor secure in their comedic timing, and dry delivery of lines. James handles the role with dexterity and downtrodden finesse. His duet “Looking for a Boy” with The Duchess and its reprise are delightful as is his judicious use of a hand trolley. His characterisation is an absolute delight and he holds the audience in the palm of his hand from start to finish.
As stalwart, straight laced, opinionated, Prohibitionist, and meddler Duchess Estonia Dulworth, Jacqui Cuny is lovely. Her presence on stage, militant and harsh is the perfect tonic for the gin that is going on all around her. Her performance is formidable in every sense of the word. She makes every single appearance count throughout the performance and lends her powerful vocals wonderfully to the ensemble sound. Of particular note is her work with Warryn James in “By Strauss/Sweet and Lowdown (reprise)”.
Stephen Daniels brought the sweet hearted, lonely, not too bright Police Chief Berry to life and took great delight milking each of the moments onstage for all they were worth. He played the role with a lovely balanced earnestness that sat nicely within the overall ensemble. Particularly his work in the “bedroom scenes” with Jimmy and Billie is an awkward, wonderful treat.
Far too many actors refuse the opportunity to play a small role, or a cameo. Often overlooking the fact that they can be the roles that hold the whole show together, and more often than not, provide some scene stealing opportunities. This is absolutely the case for Millicent Winter (Johanna Toia) whose 11th hour entrance literally stopped the show with thunderous applause from the audience. A seasoned performer, Toia ate every line of the role up, immediately establishing herself as the most powerful character in the show and carrying the energy of the show forward to it’s wonderful, hysterical, Gilbert and Sullivan inspired conclusion.
A huge part of the success of this show are the design elements. Ranging from the great period costuming and wigs, to the elegant, simplistic, wonderfully functional set design. These were brought together by the flawless, smooth-moving transitional design of the show, effortlessly moved from scene to scene and run incredibly by the backstage team led by James Secomb. It kept the glitzy show moving quickly, never allowing the pace to slacken.
One of the very few facets of the show that was not quite as tight and together as it could have been were the technical elements. While technical was overall quite solid, there were points where microphones did not come up in time to catch a line, which for a script as fast paced and witty as this one is a tragedy, and there were more occasions where microphones were not switched off backstage and cast could be heard talking in the wings during changes.
Additionally some extra attention could be used in the lighting of the show, with some scenes having an uneven wash to them. There were also instances of the actors not standing cleanly in their light, standing instead in patches of half dark and shadow. However, it should be noted that these elements were fairly infrequent and should ease themselves out by the end of the run.
This show is an absolute treat and with it’s phenomenal score, hilariously heartfelt script, and wonderful design, Nice Work If You Can Get It is a triumph for Savoyards and all of the creatives and cast involved. It is an absolute must see before the end of it’s run.