Musical Theatre review: Nice Work If You Can Get It, Upstairs at the Gatehouse

PUBLISHED: 13:08 17 December 2018 | UPDATED: 13:08 17 December 2018

Grace McInerny, Kirsten Mackie , Abigail Earnshaw & Alistair So in Nice Work if You Can Get It Upstairs at The Gatehouse Theatre in Highgate

Grace McInerny, Kirsten Mackie , Abigail Earnshaw & Alistair So in Nice Work if You Can Get It Upstairs at The Gatehouse Theatre in Highgate

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The Highgate venue pulls off an energetic and infectiously fun rendition of this Gershwin jukebox musical

Jessica Elizabeth Nelson as Billie Bendiz in  Nice Work if You Can Get It Upstairs at The Gatehouse Theatre in HighgateJessica Elizabeth Nelson as Billie Bendiz in Nice Work if You Can Get It Upstairs at The Gatehouse Theatre in Highgate

Hats off to John and Katie Plews for their determination in bringing Nice Work If You Can Get It to Highgate.

They first saw the show in New York six years ago: a jukebox collection of the Gershwin brothers’ greatest hits.

The director/producer couple’s hard work has paid off with this UK premier which runs until the end of January.

We’re in Prohibition New York and a motley collection of boot-leggers are trying to earn a crust by supplying hooch to speakeasies. The leader of the gang is the hard bitten (but suspicious and endearingly insecure) Billie Bendix who, during a chance encounter with spoiled rich kid Jimmy Winter, steals his wallet ... then he steals her heart.

Along the way we meet some preposterous characters, all lifted from American feel-good musicals of the Thirties and Forties.

They include a chorus of dancing dames, a hoodlum turned butler (an engaging softie played with great comic skill by David Pendlebury), a self-absorbed interpretive dancer (the electric Charlotte Scally), a corrupt senator, a naive but sensitive police chief and many other old tropes all played with passion, commitment and an infectious sense of fun.

The energy in the dance numbers (more Black Bottoms than on a whole series of Strictly Come Dancing) is breath-taking: watch out for the bathing scene and count the legs!

The music is provided by a small, but perfectly formed ensemble perched high above the action who enthusiastically supply the authentic Gershwin jazzy sound.

Across the piece the singing was outstanding and lots of old favourites get an airing (Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, Someone to watch over me, ‘S Wonderful, Blah, Blah, Blah and many more).

Alistair So was excellent as Jimmy – a spot-on mixture of sex appeal and dumbness. While Jessica-Elizabeth Nelson was Streisandesque as Billie; capturing her vulnerability and sassiness while delivering a full-blooded and passionate vocal performance.

A fabulous alternative to pantomime for the family Christmas outing.

4/5

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