Delightfully Zany! “NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT”

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PEACH STATE SUMMER THEATRE REVIEW
DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM [email protected]

Do you like musicals? Then you would love the Peach State Summer Theatre’s (PSST!) production of the Gershwin brother’s jukebox musical “Nice Work if You Can Get It” in Valdosta, Georgia. The production will be on stage on the campus of Valdosta State University in repertory with “Beauty and the Beast” and “Ring of Fire” through July 17, 2016.

This delightfully zany musical, filled with the music and lyrics of George and Ira Gershwin and set in 1927 during Prohibition, was written by Tony Award winning playwright Joe DiPietro. He is well-known for such musicals as “Memphis,” “All Shook Up,” and “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” He also wrote the comedy “Over the River and Through the Woods.” “Nice Work” debuted on Broadway in 2012 with Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara in the leading roles.

This is a show you go to for both the Gershwin songs and the staging. The music is live and played to perfection, provided by a ten-piece orchestra tucked away backstage The songs, which include “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” and “Fascinating Rhythm,” to name just a few, are classical and the on-stage action is a madcap farce from beginning to end.

Jimmy & Billie photo by Paul Leavy
Jimmy & Billie
photo by Paul Leavy

This wild adventure of politicians, chorus girls, and bootleggers begins with handsome playboy Jimmy Winter (Chance Wall) planning his marriage (his fourth) to pretty blonde Eileen (Heather McCall) but he soon gets tangled up with tomboyish bootlegger Billie Bendix (Megan Wheeler) who appropriates his summer house to store 400 cases of gin, assisted by her gangster friends Cookie (Alejandro Gutierrez) and Duke (Jonathan Brian Furedy). Lots of twists and turns follow, as you would expect in this musical genre. Police Chief Berry (Peyton Crim) and the Vice Squad pursue the booze hustlers. Romance is in the air, as Jimmy falls for Billie, Duke pretends that he is British royalty and romances Irish girl Jeannie Muldoon (Ashlee Dutson), and Cookie falls for Duchess Dulworth (Jacque Wheeler), a loud-mouthed self-righteous prohibitionist. Also joining in are Senator Evergreen (John Payonk) and Jimmy’s mother, Millicent Winter (Jeani Synyard).

While the audience certainly showed its appreciation of Gershwin’s musical standards, two lesser-known songs seemed to be favorites (judging by laughter and applause).

“Delishious” was performed by Eileen in a bathtub with bubbles that filled the stage. She was joined by bathing beauties, followed by a show-stopper, as four men in women’s bathing suits appeared. Lots of laughter followed.

“Looking for a Boy” was sung during the second act by the virtuous Duchess, who has become shockingly drunk after unknowingly imbibing booze mixed with her lemonade, and swings from a chandler while belting out the song.

Rounding out this talented cast as chorus girls and the vice squad were: Sarah Wildes Arnett, Joshua Barcol, Brandon Chandler, Olin Davidson, Taylor-Kate Eubanks, Megan Foose, Alexandria Joy, Ryan Juda, Emily Meinerding, Allison Roberts, Vaughn Meccod, Jeanne Schwenck, Christopher Taylor and Austin Vickers.

Since PSST! State has three shows running in rotation, nothing permanent can be built on the stage and all backgrounds are dropped from the ceiling. Scenic Designer Ruth A. Brandvik’s creations, which included a speakeasy, bedroom, living room, bubble bath, and outdoor locations are outstanding, and designed for swift changes.

We have been going to the Peach State Summer Theatre since the days when it was held on Jekyll Island in an outdoor amphitheatre, and can appreciate the many changes made possible by the change of venue. All performances are in the 200 seat Sawyer Theatre on the Campus of Valdosta State University, in Valdosta. The theatre has stadium seating, with excellent sight lines from all seats. The actors are professionally miked so you can hear all those wonderful voices clearly. Over 800 actors auditioned for parts before the final cast members were chosen, which included a number of VSU students enrolled in the school’s highly acclaimed theatre program.

PRODUCTION TEAM: H. Duke Guthrie(Managing Director) Randy Wheeler(Director), Karen Webb (Choreographer), Joe Mason (Vocal and Musical Director), Johanna Miller (Technical Director), Genny Wynn-Muncy (Lighting Designer), Zach Cramer (Sound Consultant), Esther L. Iverson (Costume Designer), Ruth A. Brandvik (Scenic Designer), Abby Vincent (Stage Manager.

“Nice Work If You Can Get It” is everything you want in a musical, with excellent voices, dancing, costumes, and scenery.
This show sports a rousingly comic ensemble and it turns out to be a real charmer.

Valdosta is a two-hour ride from the Jacksonville area, straight out I-10 West, to I-75 North. For a complete schedule of shows that run through July 17, call the Box Office at 229-259-7770 or visit www.valdosta.edu/psst. Of note, on the weekend of July 9th, you can see all three shows in two days.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.