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A CurtainUp Review
Nice Work If You Can Get It
By Elyse Sommer
As it turns out, it also doesn't matter that Matthew Broderick is not as limber, thin and relaxed a dancer as O'Hara or the incredibly agile dance ensemble of Nice Work If You Can Get It. After all, a lot of years have passed since he made his stage debut at 17, and it's been more than a decade since he wowed audiences with his nebbish accountant in The Producers. But even though 20 years too old for the role he sings and gamely dances with Kelli and the spectacular dancers, at one point even leaping over a couch and up and down a staircase. Actually, his not having the classic romantic lead's classic tall, dark and handsome looks or vocals on a par with the dulcet voiced O'Hara's, adds a vulnerable touch to his being the lead in this "delishious" new musical.
Per the lyrics of "Delicious, " which is just one of many wonderful Gershwin tunes, "what can I say/To sing my praise" about a musical that proves that they can still make them like they used to do: Stuffed with hummable music, lively dancing, spectacular scenery, colorful costumes. . . and, above all, adding up to lots and lots of fun. But wait, if the songs are by the Gershwin brothers is this really a new musical? Could it be yet another jukebox musical? If not that, is Nice Work If You Can Get It really a revival? That possibility is raised by the fact that book writer Joe DiPietro's credits Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse as his inspiration. That pair's jazz age hit, Oh, Kay!, featured the music of none other than George and Ira Gershwin and opened at the same Imperial Theater where DiPietro's new version has now had its official opening.
While it seems almost sacrilegious to use the Gershwin name in connection with the term jukebox musical, the plots and subplots of Oh, Kay! weren't just coathangers for the music, but as entertaining as the Gershwin tunes were delightful. Though Joe DiPietro hasn't ditched the source material, he's put his own hit-making stamp on it. Thus, thanks to Kathleen Marshall's well paced direction and nifty choreography, plus a dream cast, Nice Work. . . whatever its genre, is a frothy '20s musical made fresh and new again. It's the perfect antidote to forget today's problem riddled world, at least for a few hours. Nice work indeed, if done as well as it is here!
Pietro's book retains the Prohibition era when thirsty citizens made bootleggers rich and pursued a good time as if they knew that a great depression was just around the corner. The story begins with Jimmy Winters (Broderick) having a last fling before his third trip to the altar. Of course, before he can say " I do" he meets Billie (O'Hara) a feisty bootlegger. Take a kiss — its impact amusingly underscored with a riff from "Rhapsody in Blue." Slip in his revelation about his never used Long Island mansion which makes it an ideal place to hide a large stash of booze. That's all it takes for Jimmy's hoi polloi world and Billie's law-evading compatriots Duke Mahoney (Chris Sullivan) and Cookie McGee (Michael McGrath, who just about steals the show ) to become hilariously entwined.
Confusion reigns delightfully before we can get to the inevitable happy ending for Jimmy and Billie. Loose ends are also tied up for everyone else: McGrath and Sullivan from the wrong side of the law, Stanley Wayne Mathis's Chief Berry and his nimble footed Vice Squad from the latter. . . Jimmy's bride Eileen Evergreen (Jennifer Laura Thompson) and her very proper aunt, Duchess Estonia Duckworth (Judy Kaye), and her uncle, Senator Max Evergreen (Terry Beaver).
There isn't a less than 4-star performance from anyone. Though Estelle Parson has time to take a nap or read a book before her brief appearance. When she does show up, it's a mini star turn. Everyone should look so good at 80!
As in another down-in-the-dumps chasing new-old comedy currently on Broadway, One Man, Two Guvnors, Nice Work. . . has a raucous dinner scene. This one involves Judy Kaye's Duchess and a chandelier. Really! Kaye, besides being a spot-on comedienne (Souvenier), is a glorious singer. She delivers some of the lesser known Gershwin songs beautifully (the solo "By Strauss" and "Looking For a Boy" with McGrath).
There's no shortage of more familiar numbers. Besides the title song there's "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," " 'S Wonderful," "But Not For Me" and "Someone to Watch Over Me." All are so good that it's a pleasure to have them reprised at least once. And who but the Gershwins could make a song with a lyric dominated by " blah, blah, blah" work well enough to also warrant a reprise. Fortunately, the music isn't over amplified as it is at so many musicals.
Fortunately the dancers are more than up to Marshall's challenging choreography. Marshall has choreographed dance routines with Broderick's limitations in mind. He therefore seems to throughly enjoy being part of all the fancy footwork.
The design team takes full advantage of the modern techniques for creating a Busby Berkeley like extravaganza. Derek McLane has sets rolling on and off stages and sliding up and down which makes for seamless shifts from a downtown pier to the exterior and ritzy interior of Jimmy's slick Long Island Mansion. Marshall cleverly uses a bathroom scene to have the bathtub immersed Eileen joined by a chorus of Bubble Girls & Boys singing "Delishious."
Martin Pakledinaz's costumes come in a gorgeous rainbow of colors and fabrics. They're witty as well as eye-poppingly lovely, as exemplified by the endless train on Eileen's wedding dress. His attention to detail is evident in the Vice-Squad dancers' wearing socks to match their dancing partners' gowns. Paul Huntley's hairdos and wigs further enhance the jazz-age look.
If I have one complaint, is that the show is about ten minutes too much of a good thing. Otherwise, there obviously isn't just one reason for me to tell you to treat yourself to a ticket: For starters, there's the pleasure seeing Matthew Broderick still boyishly charming. There's also Kelli O'Hara, who's a charmer and a talent whether wearing a skirt or trousers. . I could go on with more shout-outs for everyone involved with this full of fizzle and fun show, but I'll leave it for Ira Gershwin to sum up in into j one and a half words: " 's Wonderful!"
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