STERLING — It’s Fourth of July week in America and celebrations of all sorts are taking place in cities and town large and small. In Sterling, one Fourth of July tradition is the Sterling Community Theatre Troupe summer musical. This year that production is a celebration of one of America’s best loved composers/songwriters – George Gershwin. “Nice Work If You Can Get It” will be presented at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 6 and 7.
With 22 cast members, the “new Gershwin musical” actually takes its plot from the 1926 Gershwin musical “Oh, Kay.” Although the musical is still set in the 1920s, the plot and humor of the piece have been updated by contemporary playwright Joe DiPietro. The show is filled with outrageous characters like bootleggers, chorus girls, a wealthy playboy, and a Carrie Nation-like prohibitionist. Several comic bits of business that come straight out of vaudeville.
With the 1920s setting the show’s dances feature exuberant kicks and arms waving and spins of the Charleston era, all with the precision and energy to keep the show moving and entertaining. Of course, with a group of seven chorus girls of the 1920s comes several colorful and creative costumes. Each of the chorus girls has a “Speakeasy” costume complete with headband and feather and a “Bubble Girl” costume (with bubbles) as well as two quintessential 1920s flapper-type dresses. The men who play the Vice Squad and various other roles are smartly attired in era-like double-breasted suits.
The costumes, the choreography, the characters and the comedy all make “Nice Work If You Can Get It” a great example of one of America’s best-loved art forms, the good old-fashioned musical comedy. But at the heart of the show is the Gershwin music itself. “Nice Work” features 21 songs with music by George Gershwin and lyrics by his brother Ira. George Gershwin is known as “America’s Composer.” He burst onto the music scene 100 years ago with the song “Swanee.” He and his brother Ira went on to write songs for several Broadway musicals as well as early Hollywood films. He was equally respected in the classical music world with the American folk opera “Porgy and Bess” as well as compositions like “American In Paris.”
Hearing performances of popular music standards like the show’s title song, “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “Do It Again,” “’S Wonderful” and “But Not For Me” is a celebration of American popular song. The less familiar numbers are equally appealing, including a ukulele driven Varsity Trio in “Do Do Do” and the aptly named hymn of self-adulation, “Delishious,” performed in a bubble bath with a balletic chorus emerging from unexpected places.
About 15 of Gershwin’s instrumental compositions are incorporated into the show as well. In a running joke through the show, every stage kiss prompts a surge of “Rhapsody in Blue.”
Tickets for the Sterling musical “Nice Work If You Can Get It” will be available at the door before each performance.