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Nice Work If You Can Get It plays at SRJC’s Summer Repertory Theatre


 Nice Work If You Can Get It
at SRJC’s Summer Repertory Theatre 

Review by Harry Duke

The SRJC Summer Repertory Theatre program opens its 45th season with Nice Work If You Can Get It, a prohibition-era musical that if it were any more lightweight would rip the Burbank Auditorium off its foundation and float it away like the house in Up.

Alex Stewart and EnsembleIts tissue-paper-thin plot involves thrice-married wealthy playboy Jimmy Winter (Alex Stewart) who, on his way to wife #4 (Sophie Madorsky), meets and falls for bootlegger Billie Bendix (Aubrey Reece). Billie and her merry miscreants Cookie (Daniel Bellusci) and Duke (Mark Jammal) need a place to store some hooch, so they take over Jimmy’s never-used summer home which, of course, is soon overrun by Jimmy, his fiancé, his soon to be in-laws, and the law. All this is set to the music of George and Ira Gershwin, including the standards “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”, “S’Wonderful”, “Fascinating Rhythm” and the title tune.

The SRT program recruits its participants from top theatre programs from across the country and considers them the cream of the young theatrical student crop. As in any rep program, an individual member may have a lead in one show, a supporting role in another and be part of the ensemble in a third. With a season of five shows, they all need to be top-notch “triple threats” – actors, singers, and dancers. They do not disappoint in Nice Work…

Stewart and Reece give winsome performances in the leads. Fine comedic support is given by Sophie Madorsky as the “world’s leading interpreter of modern dance” and the Shemp Howard-haired, Nathan Lane-voiced Daniel Bellusci as the butler-masquerading Cookie.  The ensemble work is strong, particularly in the large-scale production numbers. There’s nothing quite like a stage full of tap dancers and director & choreographer Anne McAlexander and her cast deliver the goods with the Act I finale of “Fascinating Rhythm”. Music director Adrian Ries and his thirteen-piece orchestra deliver the Gershwin tunes with aplomb and vocals are uniformly strong from the cast.

SRT’s Nice Work If You Can Get It breaks no new ground with its standard “Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Gets Girl” plot, but it has the Gershwins’ score and a winning cast going for it. Delivered with energy and effervescence, it’s the theatrical equivalent of cotton candy – light, airy, colorful, sweet, not particularly long lasting – and makes for a very pleasant summer evening’s diversion.

Nice Work If You Can Get It presented by the Santa Rosa Junior College Summer Repertory Theatre plays in rep through August 13  Santa Rosa Junior College, Burbank Auditorium, 1501 Mendocino Ave. Santa Rosa, CA  95401
Photos by SRT