Tuesday, April 24, 2012

theatre review, NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, Broadway, April 23

When Crazy For You opened on Broadway twenty years ago it was hailed as "the new Gershwin musical comedy" even though George Gershwin had been dead for over 50 years.  So, it's surprising that the producers of the new Broadway musical Nice Work If You Can Get It aren't billing this show as "the newest Gershwin musical comedy" since, like Crazy For You, this new show is a re-working of an earlier Gershwin musical, but with a new book and with the addition of other Gershwin songs.

Based on the 1926 musical Oh, Kay!, Nice Work If You Can Get It features classic Gershwin tunes from that show as well as other Gershwin shows including "Someone To Watch Over Me," "Fascinating Rhythm," "But Not For Me," and "S' Wonderful."   It stars Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara and officially opens on Broadway tonight.

Kelli O'Hara and Matthew Broderick
  Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall and with grounded comedic performances by Broderick, Michael McGrath and Judy Kaye, Nice Work If You Can Get It is a throw back to classic musical comedies of the past.  Kelli O'Hara gives another one of her well thought out takes on an unordinary character, in this case a tom boy bootlegger. With some inspired choreography, a well honed book by Joe DiPietro and those wonderful Gershwin tunes, this show is definitely the most fun and funniest musical this season.  It is a modern screwball comedy that puts a smile on your face from pretty much the beginning that you will still have on your face when the show ends.

Terry Beaver, Estelle Parsons,
Kelli O'Hara and Matthew Broderick
Broderick is the wealthy playboy Jimmy Winter.  The show begins on the eve of his upcoming fourth marriage when he stumbles upon female bootlegger Billie (O'Hara) after a drunken night of partying.  It is 1927 and prohibition is still in full force so O'Hara is more concerned where to store her huge inventory of gin then falling in love. But sparks fly when Broderick plants a drunken kiss on O'Hara.  Of course we know from the beginning that by the end Broderick and O'Hara will be together, but DiPietro's book finds plenty of obstacles to get in the way of our stars having a "happily ever after" ending.  The fact that the father and aunt of his soon to be wife are a Senator/Judge and a prohibitionist, respectively, only adds to the drama. 

Matthew Broderick shows once again how effortless he is at comedy.  Not only is he given plenty of funny moments, but he sings many songs and dances as well.  It is nice to see Broderick in another musical, and one where he looks like he is having so much fun.  He also gets to wear some really nice costumes. O'Hara isn't given a lot of frilly dresses to wear, instead often wearing pants and jackets more associated with someone you'd see working around the docks of New York City, but she still looks great, and wraps her lovely soprano voice around many classic Gershwin songs.  She too looks like she is having a great time and her scenes and dances with Broderick are highlights of the show.  They have one solo dance number that brought the house down.

Judy Kaye and Michael McGrath
McGrath is O'Hara's bootlegging partner and he and Judy Kaye are the supporting comedic stars here who both fortunately get plenty of material and scenery to chew along the way.  I would be very happy to see both with Tony nominations in a few weeks as they are both so good with their comic abilities, solid in their character portrayals as well as both get some nice Gershwin songs to sing, including Kaye doing an over the top delivery of "Looking For a Boy" in the second act.

Also in the cast are Jennifer Laura Thompson as Broderick's fiancee and Estelle Parsons as his mom.  Thompson isn't given a lot to do but she is perfect as the fortune hungry woman who is only looking out for herself and while Parsons doesn't show up until the last 15 minutes of the show, she is given some rich material to deliver.

Like last year's Anything Goes, that she also directed and choreographed, Marshall has proven herself perfectly capable of directing a new musical comedy as well as being able to hone excellent performances from a fairly large ensemble cast.   Her choreography for Nice Work If You Can Get It is both fresh and funny. Her stars are all over the stage, dancing on the furniture, the staircase of the mansion, sometimes lifted high above like up on a ladder and Broderick is even lifted up by the female ensemble as well as rolled along the backs of the male ensemble.  All of these moments add funny touches to the already funny show.  Marshall's use of various set pieces from a bathtub or a bed to a chandelier to bring out the humor in the piece are also the signs of a director who knows how to accurately use what they've been given to make the whole more than the sum of the parts. 

A lovely set design by Derek McLane provides some huge Long Island Mansion surroundings including the front, inside and garden of the mansion as well as various bedrooms and a bathroom.  Costumes by Martin Pakledinaz are rich and elegant but also simple when necessary like the street close costumes for O'Hara and McGrath.

If you're looking for a fun night out with A list Broadway starts look no further than Nice Work If You Can Get It.

Official Show Site

Highlights from the show:

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