Tag Archives: Joe DiPietro

Nice Work If You Can Get It
★★★★

Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Reviewed – 14th December 2018

★★★★

“It is a fizzy cocktail indeed, with bubbles that tickle you and fill you with a feel-good warmth at the same time”

 


Although it premiered on Broadway as late as 2012, “Nice Work If You Can Get It” has the authentic feel of a 1920s musical. Joe DiPietro’s book connects wholeheartedly with the whimsical humour of that bygone era, capturing the spirit of the roaring twenties. In essence this is a ‘Juke Box’ musical threading together a greatest hits package of the Gershwin Brothers catalogue, but unlike many contemporary counterparts, this show has a stamp of originality that makes it feel like the songs were written especially for this show.

It is very loosely based on the early Gershwin musical “Oh, Kay!” written by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse. The connection is tenuous, but DiPietro has captured the spirit with a cocktail of screwball comedy, oddball characters and jazz. It is a fizzy cocktail indeed, with bubbles that tickle you and fill you with a feel-good warmth at the same time.

That this is the UK premiere is a real coup for John and Katie Plews, the producers that have brought the show to the Gatehouse, and they have assembled a magnificent team who bring this show truly to life. A six-piece band do perfect justice to Gershwin’s inimitable score, while a twelve strong cast of ‘triple-threats’ gives the feel of a West End show; even if, at times, the space does feel somewhat overcrowded. But hats off to Grant Murphy, whose choreography packs every version of the Charleston onto a dance floor that could barely accommodate a swinging cat, let alone the full, swinging routines devised for the show.

At the height of prohibition, fast-living playboy Jimmy Winter finds himself intertwined in the escapades of various bootleggers, chorus girls and politicians. On the eve of his fourth marriage to the “finest interpreter of modern dance in the world” he unexpectedly falls for female bootlegger Billie Bendix who stashes a shipment of moonshine in his plush Long Island beach house. (It’s nice to see this timely twist: she becomes the tough guy while he is the ‘damsel’ in distress). Jessica-Elizabeth Nelson shines as the hard-edged yet flirtatious Billie who conceals a vulnerability beneath the devil-may-care exterior. A contrast all the more underlined whenever she breaks into song with her rich mezzo-soprano. Alistair So’s Jimmy handles the girl who gives as much as she gets in a mischievously nuanced performance with definite nods to Fred Astaire.

But this isn’t a show that boasts any leads as such. An ensemble piece, each performer plays a vital role (often more than one), from the wild flappers and chorus girls to the over-zealous vice squad, the politicians and the matriarchs. It is a real mixed bag but somehow everyone manages to find their perfect match. Love blossoms in the most unexpected places; particularly between Billie’s fellow bootlegger, Cookie McGee (a wonderful David Pendelbury) and the temperate Duchess Estonia Dulworth who knocks back the hooch: a show stealing performance from Nova Skipp.

The show’s denouement is almost Shakespearean as the couples come together and mistaken identities are revealed and rectified. It is positively uplifting; but the sense of joy we come away with has undoubtedly been roused by the music. The show is littered with so many of the Gershwin’s best tunes from their other musicals; “Nice Work If You Can Get It”, “Someone To Watch Over Me”, “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”, “‘S Wonderful”, “I’ve Got A Crush On You”… the list goes on and on. But the genius lies, as I have said, in the fact that the story fits so well to the tunes, a marriage made in heaven, consummated by the sheer skill of an all singing, all dancing cast.

One minor complaint – occasionally the band are too loud for the voices. And if the space occasionally feels too small for the actors; that is only because this is crying out to be put on a much larger stage. And it deserves it. This production looks likely to be a sell out, so: nice work if you can get a ticket.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Darren Bell

 

Upstairs At The Gatehouse - Home

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Upstairs at the Gatehouse until 27th January

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
A Night at The Oscars | ★★★★ | February 2018
After the Ball | ★★★ | March 2018
Return to the Forbidden Planet | ★★★ | May 2018
Kafka’s Dick | ★★★★ | June 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

F*cking Men – 3 Stars

Men

F*cking Men

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 19th May 2018

★★★

“Their lack of comfort in certain roles is clear and some dubious accents don’t help”

 

Ten men weave through each other’s lives – married couples, sauna hookups, monogamists and non-monogamists, sex workers and Grindr meetups – all played by three multi-rolling actors. The interactions cross-sect society – a soldier who insists he isn’t gay and an escort, a bisexual student and his tutor, a porn star and his married lover. Based on Arthur Schnitzler’s at the time scandalous play ‘La Ronde’, Joe DiPietro sets this narrative of sexual encounters in the modern day New York gay scene. ‘F*cking Men’ is an insight into a world of casual sex, financial exchanges and relationships, as its inhabitants search for connection and intimacy.

Bleak for some and hopeful for others this is not a celebration nor a condemnation of this scene. Instead DiPietro seeks to genuinely represent multiple facets of the gay scene and the people who function within it. He succeeds to some extent. Many of the interactions are all too recognisable, but others do fall into the category of stereotype. Whilst ‘La Ronde’ specifically aimed to depict characters across the different levels of society, in the context of this adaptation, DiPietro’s film star character seems out of place and starts a transcension into celebrity that leaves the everyday experience of the gay scene behind.

Richard De Lisle, a member of the original cast and now a current cast member and Associate Director of the production, delivers the standout performance of the evening. He infects each of his characters with believability and is consistently strong as he morphs from role to role. August Ohlsson and Liam Darby are less concrete – both have their stronger characters but unfortunately this means they also have their weaker characters. Their lack of comfort in certain roles is clear and some dubious accents don’t help when creating convincing and rounded characters.

The set consists of wooden boxes that are rearranged and repurposed from scene to scene and out of which emerge costume changes and set dressing. Jack Weir’s lighting design plays a large part in transforming the space and pays close attention to detail, flooding the stage with blue when a television is turned on, for example.

This is a snapshot of a varied and often misrepresented scene, of people searching for moments of connection in a scene often characterised by fleeting hookups, secrecy and non-monogamy, and it is well supported by the strength of De Lisle’s performance and characteristics.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography courtesy of show

 


F*cking Men

King’s Head Theatre until 2nd June

 

 

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