I am kind of a fan of most of juke box musicals. How’s that for a non-committal opening line? Seriously, I like some of them, like Mama Mia, featuring the songs of ABBA, or Rock of Ages, featuring the music of everybody else. But I do prefer the ones that weave a narrative around a specific composer and manage to squeeze the songs into the story seamlessly. Such is the case with “Nice Work If You Can Get It.” With the music of George and Ira Gershwin, whose music has provided an American soundtrack for generations, and a book by Joe Dipietro (Mr. Dipietro also wrote “Memphis” and “All Shook Up,” among others), this frothy piece of theatre has arrived to close out the season at Cockpit-In-Court with style.
…if what you want is a bubbly, theatrical ice cream sundae with a cherry on top type of summer entertainment, then by all means don’t miss Cockpit-In-Court’s “Nice Work If You Can Get It!” It’s the bee’s knee’s!
The thin as paper plot centers on some fairly stock characters and there is nary a surprise to be found in the boiler plate story set during the roaring 20s amidst a backdrop of prohibition. Jimmy Winter is a ne’er-do-well, filthy rich playboy who is out for a final night on the town before he marries.
After a drunken visit to a speakeasy, he staggers down to the docks and meets the lovely bootlegger, Billie Bendix. She contrives to use the millionaire playboy’s beach house as a hideout for herself and her two partners-in-crime, and a place to stash 400 cases of booze. Little does she know that he will also be unexpectedly occupying the house, along with his fiancé, the fiancé’s father and aunt, various and sundry chorus girls, a goon squad of anti-liquor tough guys. Even more unexpected (though the audience sees it coming a mile away), they fall in love. As the cliché goes, hijinks ensue.
Cockpit-In-Court has built a reputation for superlative theatre by choosing exceptional directors and Eric J. Potter has put his vision on display with terrific results. With the talents of Musical Director Gerald Smith, orchestra manager/conductor Tim Viets and choreographer Illona Kessell, the team has cooked up a sweet libation of a production that goes down as smooth as a good champagne.
Potter’s deft direction keeps the action moving smoothly. Musical Director Smith coached the cast’s vocals to perfection and Mr. Viets did his usual bang-up job of leading the well-rehearsed orchestra. Ms. Kessell provided the campy choreographer and kept it in the style of the period with the Charleston, the Black Bottom and the Turkey Trot all represented and well performed. Michael Rasinski’s cleverly chic art deco set design is nicely illuminated by Helen Garcia-Alton’s lighting design. Tracy Bird, Stage Garb Inc. did the expertly designed costumes.
The chorus moved exceptionally well, handling the choreography with rhythmic grace and sang the familiar tunes with gusto. Solid dance moves and excellent vocals.
All of the supporting cast were well suited to their roles. Thomas ‘Toby’ Hessenauer as a meddling Chief of Police and John Amato as Senator Max Evergreen both held their own and got more than a few laughs. And Joan Crooks’ appearance as the no-nonsense Millicent Winter was a real treat.
Jeannie Muldoon was played with excellent comedic timing by Casy Lane. She and the always hilarious Gary Dieter as Duke were a pleasure doing Do It Again.
Jane E. Brown used her lovely contralto to great advantage as the uptight Duchess Estonia Dulworth. Her standout moment was hanging from a chandelier while belting out Looking for A Boy.
Lynn Tallman was fantastic as the empty-headed, vain fiancé, Eileen Evergreen. She is a throwback to the days of Madeline Kahn and more recently Megan Mullaly. Great pipes, funny and gorgeous, she sang Delishious delishously.
Gary Dieter and Patrick Martyn were hilarious playing sidekicks Duke Mahoney and Cookie McGee respectively. They both had great lines delivered in over-the-top vintage Hollywood style that can best be described as schtick and I loved every minute of it. Martyn was a stitch in his duet with the Duchess, Looking for a Boy, while Dieter’s Blah, Blah, Blah was funny and touching.
Lizzy Pease has a voice to rival most of the leading ladies on the Baltimore theatre scene. She has an almost stately presence but is able to really cut loose and had an obvious chemistry with her co-star. A believable actress, she came across quite well in her songs, Someone to Watch Over Me and But Not For Me. J. Bradley Bowers was wonderful as Jimmy Winter, the hapless reprobate. It is so rare to see a leading man who can not only sing like a Broadway star, but dance like one, too! And this boy had moves that kept me smiling and tapping my toes throughout the evening. He and Ms. Pease stopped the show in the duet S’Wonderful.
If you’re looking for heavy drama, keep looking somewhere else. But if what you want is a bubbly, theatrical ice cream sundae with a cherry on top type of summer entertainment, then by all means don’t miss Cockpit-In-Court’s “Nice Work If You Can Get It!” It’s the bee’s knee’s!
Running Time: 2 hours and 40 minutes, with one intermission.
“Nice Work If You Can Get It” runs through August 4th, 2019 on the CCBC Essex Campus at 7201 Rossville Blvd, Rosedale, MD 21237. For tickets and info, call 443.840.2787 or get them here online.