The leading man of the hit Broadway musical “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” performing now at the Carpenter Center through April 22, chatted with Long Beach 908 Magazine on his day off from the show. Eric Sciotto is a veteran entertainer, having performed in 12 shows on Broadway. His impressive resume includes the revival of “Annie Get Your Gun,” to most recently, “Something Rotten.”
In “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Mr. Sciotto plays the society playboy Jimmy Winter, who meets the rough female bootlegger Billie Bendix, played by Kelley Dorney, on the eve of his wedding. What transpires is a whole lot of fun, laughs and terrific dancing. The show’s score is from the timeless music of George and Ira Gershwin and is set during Prohibition.
“Nice Work If You Can Get It” was originally nominated for 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The Musical Theatre West revival at the Carpenter Center is a hit with Long Beach audiences. In this sit down, Sciotto, who’s from the East Coast, talks about how he’s enjoying Long Beach for the first time while performing in such a fun show, and his earliest memories of performing.
Q: Can you give us some of your personal background? How did you get involved in theater?
I would watch movie musicals with my dad as a kid and I started impersonating everything I saw. I wanted to be Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. I used to stick a mop in a roller skate and make it into my dance partner. I spent hours dancing around the garage or basement, wherever I could find smooth pavement. I always thought being a tap dancer was a job I thought one could have. Meanwhile, my brother and his friends would play football in the backyard and I would put on half-time shows on the deck. We moved a bunch as a kid, but I mostly grew up in Canton, Ohio, and spent my formative years in Erie, PA before going off to college at the University of Cincinnati. I went to the Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music. I definitely was hard-wired for performing from the very beginning!
Q: So what is your favorite movie musical?
That’s so hard because I like individual numbers. One of my all-time favorite movie musical numbers is “Singing in the Rain,” I just can’t get over that number; especially that giant dance sequence Gene Kelly does. I also loved “Hello Dolly.” Gene Kelly directed it and it’s cool to feel his spirit in the movie, without him being in it. And of course I loved “The Sound of Music” and “The King and I” when I was a kid.
Q: You’ve performed in 12 Broadway shows. That’s quite impressive. Being a fan of musicals from a young age, are you pinching yourself that you get to do this as a career? And how do you keep yourself going doing all those shows?
I’m having fun, I must say. I’m hoping for a Broadway baker's dozen soon. It has been the best thing performing. I started seeing Broadway shows when I was 16. I saw a lot of them. So now, pretty much any stage I have performed on, I also saw a musical there when I was younger. So I just try to keep the memory of what it was like to be sitting in those seats dying to be [on stage] myself — dying to be one of those few lucky people that get to do this job. That is always one of my first thoughts every night I go on stage. The fact is, you don’t know who’s out there when the curtain goes up. You don’t know who, like me at a young age, is just craving to perform. You never know whose life you’re going to change just by doing your job with joy each night.
Q: Do you have any advice for students that may also be interested in going into musical theater?
I generally say to younger people that wanting it is not enough. You have to work really, really hard. Also, don’t forget to live a full, well-rounded life and live life from all different aspects. It is going to make what you do on a stage even better. Read everything, talk to everybody and expand your interests, because it all adds together and will allow you to enjoy it more.
Q: What is the most fun about “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and how are Long Beach audiences treating you so far?
This is my first time here in Long Beach and I’m really thrilled. The audiences seem to be enjoying the heck out of it. It’s a thrilling and fun show. Even though it’s a new musical, the book feels so classic and fun, yet there is like a laugh a second. The writing is so slick and tight, plus, it is really a joy to perform these gorgeous songs. One of the most thrilling moments for me was at the preview performance. I won’t give it away, but there’s a famous Gershwin piece of music that we don’t sing, but it is played orchestrally in the theme. The Gershwin world is a major character of this play. From the moment that music played, I audibly heard gasping and applause from the audience just from the recognition of that theme. There’s one song that starts small and builds; you can hear the audience fill in the words, and it’s really cool. We’ve had a blast so far.
Q: What did you think when you first saw the Pyramid, which is right next to where you perform every night?
I thought it was a very interesting building. I immediately looked it up and saw that it’s used as a sports complex, so I thought that was cool. I love pieces of art [that stand] for seemingly no reason, you know? [laughs] No one had to make a giant, blue pyramid for a sports complex, but it’s so cool someone did. I also just think the architecture of the Carpenter Center and the music and dance department here is really fascinating and I admire it. It’s a really neat place to be.
For tickets to “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” visit musical.org