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'Nice Work If You Can Get It' review: Good Gershwin at Gateway

James Beaman and Sally Struthers star in

James Beaman and Sally Struthers star in "Nice Work If You Can Get It" through June 27, 2015, at The Gateway in Bellport. Photo Credit: Jeff Bellante

Ira Gershwin never intended this exquisite irony when he wrote the lyrics to brother George's bouncy tune "Nice Work If You Can Get It." But "nice work" -- born rich and never having to toil a day in your life -- permeates the 2012 musical making its Long Island premiere at The Gateway.

Joey Sorge plays the philandering heir so amiably that he has us rooting for 1-percenters born sucking on silver spoons. When we meet Jimmy, he's plastered in a speakeasy. (It's the 1920s, and Prohibition reigns.) The occasion is a bachelor party for a three-time matrimonial loser. He's about to wed an artiste -- the pretentious dancer-daughter (Breighanna Minnema) of a hypocritical politician (Steve Brady). Jimmy's only doing it so his mother (Leslie Alexander) won't disinherit him. Just before a police raid, he runs into a girl bootlegger whom he kisses before passing out. When he arrives at his Long Island manse with his bride-to-be, Jimmy forgets that he told the tomboy-cute bootlegger about his beach house. She and her partners in crime are stashing 400 crates of booze in the cellar as the nuptial couple arrives.

Sorge and Amanda Lea LaVergne as Billie the bootlegger sing and dance mating rituals to their unlikely pairing on such Gershwin masterpieces as the title tune, plus " 'S Wonderful" and "Someone to Watch Over Me" -- introduced by Billie as she aims her rifle. Their chemistry percolates in a way you can't direct, though Larry Raben should take credit for all other attributes -- high (bipartisan zingers) and low (sexist leering) -- of this irresistible musical throwback, accompanied by Charlie Reuter's jazzy orchestra.

James Beaman as Cookie, the bootlegging butler, initiates much of "Nice Work's" dopey-smart fun. From bah-dah-bum one-liners to pratfall antics, he plays farcical second fiddle only to Sally Struthers as Duchess Dulworth, a temperance zealot. Dead-drunk jokes usually leave me cold, but with Struthers literally swinging from a chandelier, only Carrie Nation would tsk-tsk.

Supporting players and especially the ensemble choreographed by Peggy Hickey ("A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder") keep "Nice Work" fizzing like Champagne. While you may find bigger dance numbers on Broadway, you'd be hard-pressed to find better. Accessorized by the late Martin Pakledinaz's Roaring '20s costumes and framed by Shoko Kambara's Gatsby-rich sets, it's nice work that you can get for a song. Fans of Gershwin and guilty pleasures should not miss it.

 

WHEN | WHERE 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Tuesday, 3 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday, through June 27, The Gateway, 215 South Country Rd., Bellport

TICKETS $54-$89; pacsc.org, 631-286-1133

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