For the launch of their 100th Season Bay City Players is busily preparing for an elaborate production of the relatively new musical Nice Work If You Can Get It, which premiered on Broadway in April 2012 and features songs by George & Ira Gershwin and a book written by Joe DePietro, based upon material by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse.
Set in 1927 and in the midst of a riotous bachelor party for the oft-married Jimmy Winter, portrayed by Zach Mason, a trio of bootleggers try to figure out where to hide 400 cases of gin they have stashed on their boat. As some stranger approaches two of the bootleggers named Duke & Cookie (played by Kurt Miller and Jesse Metz) rush off as a drunken Jimmy staggers upon the pants-wearing Billie Bendix (starring Rebecca Smith) and is immediately smitten. He explains his plight – that he must marry someone respectable or his mother will disinherit him, so he’s marrying someone he doesn’t truly love.
Billie isn’t that interested in his tale of woe until he reveals that he has a huge Long Island beach house that he never uses, so she swipes his wallet to discover his address, which forms the basis and sets the tone for much of the action throughout this production, which is richly colored with many memorable Gershwin tunes such as Sweet & Lowdown, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Someone to Watch Over Me, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, and Fascinating Rhythm, to name but a few.
Given that Nice Work is a relatively new musical that happens to incorporate the classic and much beloved music of the Gershwin’s, making it somewhat novel in terms of how it was constructed and developed. When asked what he feels distinguishes this musical from other contemporary Broadway productions, director Bill Anderson, Jr. sees it essentially as a “jukebox musical”.
“What makes this show different from other jukebox musicals, however, is that it is very ‘Self-Aware’. I don’t think the writers took themselves too seriously when creating the dialogue around these Gershwin numbers, so the audience will really enjoy – apart from the timeless music – the larger-than-life characters and great comic bits contained within this work. The show is a typical love story, however, it employs farce to create the comic moments, which I think will also appeal to audiences, because while it is very self-aware, it does not take itself too seriously, he notes.
“The cast has already had a lot of fun creating the piece and I can definitely state that it’s a fun show,” continues Anderson. “But also, something that is equally imperative to the story is the choreography. We are fortunate enough to be working with Bay City native Ryan Vandenboom, who is currently Broadway in Bandstand; and he and his assistant choreographer, Kaitlin Brunette have pulled together some amazing work.”
When asked the most challenging component involved with bringing this production to the stage, Anderson points to the importance of remaining faithful to the context and setting of each scene. “There are a lot of scenes in this show and they mostly take place in a very opulent beach house, so to try and bring each scene to life in a limited space and with limited resources is hard. However, we’ve been able to really think outside of the box with the set design and staging, which has helped us solve those potential problems creatively.”
Equally daunting for Anderson is that when the auditions were held for Nice Work, he was not the director of the show. “Tommy Wedge was supposed to direct this production, but due to a family illness was unable to stay on as director after the show was cast,” explains Bill. “I was asked to take over the show about a week before rehearsals started, so that has definitely been a challenge, as I have only worked with a handful of people in the show. But honestly, I have been so amazed at everyone’s talent and enthusiasm, it’s been a very fulfilling experience.”
In addition to the core cast members mentioned earlier, other actors performing in Nice Work include Meagan Eager, John Tanner, Ann Russell-Lutenske, Danelle Katsoulos, Steve Moelter, Judy Miller, March Chambers, Rita Gnida and Karly Laskowski, with musical direction by the one-and-only Kevin Cole.
“I’ve been doing theatre in the mostly the Midland area for 25 seasons and have directed 10 shows previously to this, most notably my production of Urinetown: The Musical, which went to place second at the AACTFest National Theatre Festival back in 2011,” concludes Anderson. “Musical comedy is definitely my forte and I love being able to create moments with my cast and crew that really bring the house down, so that’s what I’m working on with this group.”
Bay City Players production of ‘NICE WORK If You Can Get It with be presented Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 29-30-Oct. 1st and Thursday through Sunday, October 5-8th. Performance times are 7:30 pm with the exception of 3 pm Sunday matinees. For more information and to purchase tickets please phone 989-893-5555 or visit www.baycityplayers.com