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Nice Work If You Can Get It

  • Theatre, Musicals
  • Hayes Theatre Co, Elizabeth Bay
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Nice Work If You Can Get It at Hayes Theatre
    Photograph: Hayes Theatre Co/Grant Leslie
  2. Nice Work If You Can Get It at Hayes Theatre
    Photograph: Hayes Theatre Co/Grant Leslie
  3. Nice Work If You Can Get It at Hayes Theatre
    Photograph: Hayes Theatre Co/Grant Leslie
  4. Nice Work If You Can Get It at Hayes Theatre
    Photograph: Hayes Theatre Co/Grant Leslie
  5. Nice Work If You Can Get It at Hayes Theatre
    Photograph: Hayes Theatre Co/Grant Leslie
  6. Nice Work If You Can Get It at Hayes Theatre
    Photograph: Hayes Theatre Co/Grant Leslie
  7. Nice Work If You Can Get It at Hayes Theatre
    Photograph: Hayes Theatre Co/Grant Leslie
  8. Nice Work If You Can Get It at Hayes Theatre
    Photograph: Hayes Theatre Co/Grant Leslie
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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

This good old fashioned musical is an Art Deco delight and an unlikely vessel for powerful comedic performances by women

A wealthy young playboy causing a ruckus in Prohibition-era Manhattan, a trio of bootleggers alluding the feds as they stash a very large and very illegal haul of gin, a flurry of chorus girls, a love triangle, a case of mistaken identity, and some classic showtunes – who could ask for anything more? 

Presented by Michelle Guthrie in association with the Hayes Theatre Co under the direction of Cameron Mitchell, this production of Nice Work If You Can Get It is a night of good old fashioned musical theatre with an edge of self-aware humour and an Art Deco aesthetic. But the best bit? It’s a vehicle for fantastic comedic performances by women, who outshine the men at almost every turn. 

It’s the roaring ’20s and the oft-married Jimmy Winter (Rob Mallett) – the original himbo (“Turns out, being rich and good looking is enough!”) – has conceded that he must marry a woman of substance if his mother is ever to let him inherit the family business. Enter Eileen Evergreen (Grace Driscoll), the self-obsessed “world’s finest interpreter of modern dance” (and a fellow nepotism baby). With her flourishes of bizarre movement, Driscoll brings one of many great physical comedy performances to this show – brace for an adorable, “de-lish-ious” bubble bath scene. 

Meanwhile, Jimmy is finding himself distracted by wisecracking bootlegger Billie Bendix (Ashleigh Rubenach), who might be getting more entangled with the rich playboy than she bargained for. Rubenach plays the strings of comedic brilliance in her performance of ‘Treat Me Rough’, as the boy-ish Billie aims to seduce and distract Jimmy by awkwardly attempting to embody his weakness for chorus girls. 

Elsewhere, Octavia Barron Martin chews up the scenery and demands attention as Duchess Estonia Dulworth. Hellbent on curing society of the evils of “demon rum”, she’s the founder of the unfortunately named Society For Dry Women. Catty Hamilton turns a side character into one of the most entertaining performances, as happy-go-lucky chorus girl Jeannie; and Adorah Oloapu frequently steals the show in the traditionally male role of Chief Berry, the blundering cop. The multitalented Lisa Callingham wears multiple hats, she appears on-stage throughout the show before swooping in as Jimmy’s extravagantly glamorous and detached mother Millicent Winter – but behind the scenes she is also the choreographer who teased the classic dance numbers out of the cast, which are equal parts beautiful and comedic. 

Featuring classic songs of musical theatre pioneers George and Ira Gershwin, you might be fooled into thinking that Nice Work is older than it actually is. It made its Broadway debut in 2012, with the book by Joe DiPietro (Memphis, All Shook Up) inspired by material by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse. From ‘S’Wonderful’ to 'I’ve Got a Crush on You’, the songs all fit like a glove, but seeing the perpetually quotable ‘Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off’ (of “You like potato and I like potahto” fame) performed live is something quite special. 

Marrying the screwball comedies of the 1920s and 1930s, Nice Work doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and it doesn’t really need to. The political satire inherent in the Gershwin Brothers’ work bleeds through here, and the show avoids getting stuck in stale sentiments and terribly outdated gender roles – while still giving breathing room for two love-drunk idiots to make impulsive decisions in the name of ‘love’. There is a soft, palliative progressiveness to the pants-wearing Billie’s story – she doesn’t need to let her hair out and transform into a hyper-feminine ingénue to get the guy (and conveniently, his fortune). 

You say tomahto, and I say that if you pair an outing to Nice Work If You Can Get It with a tipple in one of King Cross’s nostalgic low-lit watering holes (like Piccolo Bar or Dean’s Lounge), you’re in for a good old fashioned nice night out if you can get it.

Nice Work If You Can Get It plays at the Hayes Theatre Co, Potts Point, until December 20, 2022. Book your tickets here.

Want more? Check out the best shows in Sydney this month.

Alannah Maher
Written by
Alannah Maher

Details

Address:
Hayes Theatre Co
19 Greenknowe Ave
Potts Point
Sydney
2011
Price:
$65-$75

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