To borrow from the lyrics of one of its ditties, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” which opened Friday at Diamond Head Theatre, is a show that’s s’wonderful, s’marvelous, s’awful nice.
“Nice Work,” starring Kelli O’Hara and Matthew Broderick, was a 2012 Broadway hit, thanks to its Great American Songbook riches of George and Ira Gershwin tunes, including the title song, “Fascinating Rhythm,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “But Not for Me” and “S’wonderful.”
Joe DiPietro created the book, adapted from “O Kay!,” a 1926 musical by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, and employed the Gershwin catalogue of hits to punctuate his giddy plot.
Its key challenge is to win and woo the audience with its silly plot about Jimmy Winter (Drew Niles), a playboy on the verge of his fourth marriage to Eileen Evergreen (played by Lea Woods Almanza), a dancer of questionable skills. Throw in a Prohibition ploy when a conniving bootlegger, Billie Bendix (Ahnya Chang), hides a stash of liquor in the cellar of Jimmy’s Long Island manse.
“NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT”
Presented by Diamond Head Theatre
>> Where: Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Ave.
>> When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, through April 15
>> Cost: $15-$50
>> Info: 733-2074, diamondheadtheatre.com
This stew of shenanigans and deception is often irreverent but nonetheless irresistible, blessed with a cavalcade of dance numbers from the Jazz Age fortified by those Gershwin gems.
DHT has assembled one of its best ensembles ever, comprising eight women and eight men who uncork a series of joyous dance numbers that capture the era of flappers and tappers. The first trick, during the opening number, earned hearty applause as leading man Niles became a human log, rolling atop male dancers on the floor.
Niles, last seen as the charismatic Che in “Evita,” is a triple threat: a charming crooner, a nimble dancer and a genuine team player equally at home as the central star and an ensemble trouper who glides over the chorus of gents with unexpected joy.
The plot includes gender reversal, since Billie, a tomboyish rifle-toting sort, aggressively pursues Jimmy. We know, of course, that she will be the Jill to his Jack by the final curtain.
Along the way, there are moments of charm and delight. Almanza has a splendid scene singing in her bathtub, where the Bubble Girls and Boys (aka Chorus Girls and Vice Squad) appear in a modest version of a Ziegfeld spectacle.
Stacey Pulmano, as the Duchess Estonia Dulworth, is an anti-rum prohibitionist, who literally soars in the air, dangling and swinging from a chandelier while tipsy. Matthew Pedersen and Kyle Mcnamara (as Cookie McGee and Duke Mahoney, respectively) are the fake butler and chef caught up in the mayhem.
Even Chang has a keen scene, with the help of a hot-pink feather boa.
Late in the show, Lisa Konove shows up as Millicent Winter, mother of the groom, who sorts out the story lines, bringing logic to the lunacy and clarifying those fuzzy plot machinations. It’s all dialogue, no singing, but wholly delightful.
Director Malindi Fickle gets to the heart of the Gershwin catalogue and has inspired her cast to deliver passionate vocals and dances. Caryn Yee and Lisa Kimsey, co-choreographers, elicit dedicated and exuberant maneuvers from the dancers, while Ike Webster makes his eight-piece orchestra sound like a jazz symphony.
And there’s nice work from the backstage artisans: Willie Sabel’s sets are mood-setting and attractive, whether a speakeasy or a bathroom. Karen G. Wolfe’s bright, fashionable costumes capture the spirit of the era, and hair and makeup by Linda Lockwood reflect the styles of the Roaring ’20s. Stephen Clear’s lighting enhances the rainbow hues on stage, and Kerri Yoneda’s sound is crisp and clear.
“Nice Work if You Can Get It,” directed by Malindi Fickle, musical direction by Ike Webster, choreographry by Caryn Yee and Lisa Kimsey, set design by Willie Sabel, costume design by Karen G. Wolfe, sound design by Kerri Yoneda, lighting design by Stephen Clear, hair and makeup design by Linda Lockwood, props design by Mathias Maas, stage management by Deanna Luster, assisted by Celia Chun. With Drew Niles (Jimmy Winter), Ahnya Chang (Billie Bendix), Stacey Pulmano (Duchess Estoria Dulworth), Matthew Pedersen (Cookie McGee), Lea Woods Almanza (Eileen Evergreen), Kyle Mcnamara (Duke Mahoney), Jody Bill (Jeannie Muldoon), Jesie Rocetes (Chief Berry), Federico Biven (Sen. Max Evergreen), Lisa Konove (Millicent Winter); Chorus Girls, Christina Sutrov, Terrace Althouse, Kayla Uchida, Britni Joy, Jorin Young, Korynn Grenert, Victoria Chang, Michelle Matias; Vice Squad, Will Thomson, Ryan Dressel, Chev-Vaughn Lum, Alika Bright, Dan Doerger, Joshua Haili-Silva, Samuel J. Mitchell, Anthony Lee. Running time: 2:30 with intermission.