Surflight Theatre Opening 2018 Season With a Gershwin Musical

Jun 12, 2018

Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven is opening its 2018 main stage summer season with “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” which features songs by George and Ira Gershwin and which was billed as “a new musical comedy” when it opened on Broadway in 2012.

Wait just a minute! Didn’t composer George die from a brain tumor at the tender age of 38 way back in 1937? And his lyricist brother Ira passed away in 1983. How can there possibly be a new Gershwin musical? The answer is that it is a book musical, one that constructs a story line around the songs of a particular composer or musical era.

Some work, some don’t. The ones built around the delightful music of George and the sophisticated lyrics of Ira always seem to fit into the former category.

“My One and Only,” with a book by Peter Stone, earned nine Tony Award nominations including Best Musical in 1983 and won three. Ken Ludwig wrote the book for 1992’s “Crazy for You,” and it also garnered nine Tony nominations and three wins, including the biggest plum, Best Musical. New Jersey native Joe DePietro worked with material penned by early Broadway legends Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse and wrote the book for the latest entry in the Gershwin parade, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” and it outdid its predecessors with 10 Tony nominations in 2012 although it fell short in wins, claiming just two.

In other words, opening a new Gershwin musical on Broadway always seems to be a safe bet. Well, Surflight promotes itself as being Broadway at the Beach, so opening with “Nice Work If You Can Get It” wasn’t a tough choice.

After all, what theatergoer can resist hearing songs such as the titular number as well as classics such as “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “Fascinating Rhythm” and “I’ve Got a Crush on You”?

The show has more to recommend it than Gershwin songs. Surflight describes the show as “a hilarious new screwball comedy” that “pokes fun at the Prohibition era in a clash of elegant socialites and boorish bootleggers.” So expect plenty of wacky characters, mistaken identities (Duke, a bootlegger from New Jersey, is taken for an English duke), disguises, love mix-ups and, considering the show is set in 1927 in the midst of Prohibition, drunkenness. Hey, much of the show’s plot revolves around 400 cases of hidden gin!

Reviewers loved the dancing in the Broadway show. Expect to love Surflight’s dance numbers as well, considering Paula Hammons Sloan is directing and choreographing, joined by assistant choreographer Liz Troxler. That duo paired up to choreograph last year’s “Newsies,” which blew away audiences with its energetic-to-the-max trotting.

The show will star a couple – an actual married couple – of Surflight favorites, Andrew Foote as Jimmy Winter and Adrianne Hick as Billie Bendix, who, fittingly, fall in love as the show’s storyline plays out.

“Nice Work If You Can Get It” will be performed at 8 p.m. on June 13, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 and at 2 p.m. on June 14, 17, 19 and 24. Tickets are $39 for adults and $29 for children 12 years of age and younger. To purchase tickets online, go to Tickets may also be purchased by calling 609-492-9477 or at the box office, open daily and located at 201 Engleside Ave. in Beach Haven.

Who knows, if you see the show, you may be inspired to write the book of the next new Gershwin musical. Broadway should be waiting for one by, oh, 2030 or so.

— Rick Mellerup

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