By MIKE CHAIKEN
Next week, Kevin Raponey, an actor from Bristol, will come full circle when he steps onto the stage of The Bushnell as part of the national tour of “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”
Raponey, who graduated Bristol Eastern High School in 2005 and trained at local dance studios, is making a return to The Bushnell stage, albeit with a bit of a break inbetween.
In an interview via email, the now-New York City resident explained, “When I was 12 years old, I did the national tour of ‘The Who’s Tommy’ and got to perform on The Bushnell stage back in 1999.”
“It has been 16 years, and I can’t wait to step on that stage again and perform for close family and friends,” said Kevin. “I don’t think that there will be a better feeling for me on this tour than the nights in Hartford. I hope I am making Bristol proud and am thankful for all of the support my hometown community has given me throughout the years.”
Bristol was indeed good for Kevin, offering him many opportunities to train and perform, he explained. “Growing up, I danced at Dance Arts Center and The Dance Experience. I performed for 13 years in the Bristol Boys and Girls Club OM Show, St. Anthony Church and School’s ‘Showcase of Stars,’ local pageants, such as Miss Mum and Miss Bristol, as well as school productions at Bristol Eastern.”
“Bristol has an amazing theater community and I am so lucky to have been brought up by wonderful parents who drove me to and from everything I wanted to do and encouraged me to pursue all of my lifelong dreams,” explained Kevin. “My family and friends are the reason why I am now a professional performer. They believed in me, loved me, and most importantly never gave up on me. I will never forget where I came from. My home sweet home. Bristol.”
Kevin has had a productive performance career over the years. He has been part of a number of national tours such as the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” starring the Rockettes, “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” and “A Chorus Line!” He also has regional theater production performance credits including “Funny Girl,” “Guys and Dolls,” and “42nd Street” as well as multiple cruise ship contracts with Holland America Line traveling around the world to places such as South East Asia, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe.”
Raponey’s current venture, “Nice Work If You Can Get It” is built around the music of the Gershwins, including “I’ve Got A Crush on You,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.” The story itself is based on material by Guy Bolton (a frequent collaborator with the Gershwins) and P.G. Wodehouse (author of the “Jeeves and Wooster” stories).
“Everyone knows the legendary music of George and Ira Gershwin,” said Kevin. “Some of the popular tunes like ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ ‘I’ve Got Rhythm,’ and ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ are songs that come on the radio and you immediately think of the amazing Gershwin brothers.”
“What I like most about the music of the Gershwin brothers is that no one song is like another,” explained Kevin. “They are so different and so unique, but yet all so catchy and fun to listen to. I love dancing every night to this amazing music.”
Kevin said he enjoys how this production has been pulled together. It’s not a revival although it is built upon the classic music of the Gershwins, which until this show had never been packaged together in a stage show.
“‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ is unlike any other show out there right now. It is not based on a book, its is not based on a movie, it is not a revival. The book, written by the incredibly talented Joe DiPietro, is brand new. He took the music chosen for the show and made a brilliant musical comedy,” explained Kevin.
“The choreography of Kathleen Marshall (‘Anything Goes,’ ‘Grease’) is so fun to do and I am so happy to be a part of this amazing production,” added the lifelong dancer.
“Growing up,” said Kevin, “I always enjoyed the work of Kathleen Marshall. ‘Wonderful Town,’ ‘Pajama Game,’ and ‘Anything Goes’ were all shows that I saw when I was younger and they all had one thing in common. Kathleen. Her choreography was innovative and different and I really appreciated that. She is an inspiring talent.”
“Since I was a young dancer, I always knew when I got older, I wanted to be a choreographer,” said Kevin. “I loved following Marshall’s work.”
“Once I saw ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ on Broadway in 2012, I knew I was perfect for the show. The dancing was wonderful and I wanted to jump up on the stage and do it with them,” said Kevin.
Eventually, Kevin was given the chance he needed. “Once the announcement of the first national tour came out, I went to the very first audition. Once I got a callback, I worked hard on the material that was sent to me and made sure when I was in front of Kathleen that I nailed it.”
“A couple days later, I got the call,” said Kevin of hearing the good news. “I was over the moon. In this moment, I finally felt like I made it. I was going to dance for Kathleen Marshall.”
Kevin has great praise for his fellow performers, including the leads, Alex Enterline and Mariah MacFarlane. “Everyone works very hard and wants the same thing: to show the world the amazing show we have all created together and to do what we love, perform. I am lucky to have such a wonderful and supportive cast and crew.”
And as for why audiences should come out to the Bushnell starting next Tuesday night, Kevin said, “‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ is a musical comedy with amazing dancing, beautiful costumes, and legendary music. What could be better? Seriously, we will take you on a journey. This show is so well-written, so well-directed, so well-choreographed. The lighting, the set, the orchestra, all of it is top notch.”
“I can’t wait for the Hartford community and my family and friends to see it,” said Kevin. “I am so proud of this show.”
“Nice Work If You Can Get It” runs at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford from Feb. 3 to 8. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $21. For tickets. Go to Bushnell.org, call (860) 987-5900, or visit the box office.
By MIKE CHAIKEN