Sometimes, it seems, environmentalists have nothing on Broadway show producers. "Nice Work If You Can Get It" is a frothy, fun exemplar of the fine art of theatrical recycling.
The diverting, deftly executed musical comedy, which opened Tuesday at the Ordway Center in St. Paul, mines the catalog of show tunes by George and Ira Gershwin. Songs such as "'S Wonderful," "Lady Be Good" and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" get gorgeous renditions in this show.
But it's not only the music that's repurposed in "Nice Work," originally staged as a glitzy song-and-dance extravaganza by Tony-winning choreographer and director Kathleen Marshall. (Both the direction and the choreography were "re-created by David Eggers" for this national tour.)
Drawing on the work of British dramatist Guy Bolton, who wrote the stories for the Gershwins' "Lady Be Good" and Cole Porter's "Anything Goes," book writer Joe Di-Pietro finds some clever ways to get to the musical numbers in his bootlegging Jazz Age setting. Sometimes the set-up fits the songs sort of naturally, like when an independent tomboy character and bootlegger, Billie Bendix (Mariah MacFarlane), dreamily sings "Someone to Watch Over Me."
At other times, the relationship between song and story is quite a stretch.
"Nice Work" revolves around rich, immature playboy Jimmy Winter (Alex Enterline), he of mysterious parentage and not much intelligence. As he tells someone, his father died in childbirth.
Jimmy's mother, Millicent (Barbara Weetman) threatens to disinherit him if he doesn't grow up. Even though he's not officially divorced, he becomes engaged to Eileen Evergreen (Rachel Scarr), a senator's daughter known as the world's finest interpreter of modern dance. But it is Jimmy and bootlegger Billie who seem like they were meant for each other. The plot is resolved naturally by a deus ex machina we all know well: Mother.
In addition to its bevy of showgirls and -boys, "Nice Work" also is peopled by bootleggers Cookie McGee (Reed Campbell) and Duke Mahoney (Aaron Fried) as well as Duchess Estonia Dulworth (Stephanie Harter Gilmore), a senator's sister who founded the unfortunately named Society of Dry Women.
The cast of "Nice Work" delivers with an easy style. Enterline plays dumb well, but he's also a fluid dancer. He has a fairly good match in MacFarlane, who shows us Billie's tough side.
The quirky characters are the funniest, including Gilmore's chandelier-swinging duchess, Scarr's narcissistic Eileen and the stock-in-trade bootleggers. None of them misses a beat in this glitzy production that is as entertaining as it is frivolous.