It takes a village, sometimes an entire universe, to put all the pieces of that puzzle called a Broadway musical together to come up with a completely satisfying and entertaining production. The creators of NICE WORK IF YOU AN GET IT – a sweetheart of a musical – succeed for the most part. Under the direction of Kathleen Marshall who is also responsible for some nifty choreography they have created an original, traditional musical comedy with all the trimmings that is true to the period and up to date with some surprisingly spot on timeless political observations. It’s frivolous, frothy and fun.
When you begin with the memorable syncopated music of George Gershwin and the clever lyrics of his brother Ira no one could ask for a finer foundation with which to build upon. But then you need a good book. Paging Joe DiPietro. Luckily they did. Mr. DiPietro’s book – which has been inspired by material by Guy Bolton and P.G. Woodhouse, has captured just the right tone for the period. 1927. His unexpected, out of left field, quirky sense of humor is most welcome and is delivered with perfect timing from the cast – particularly the supporting players.
As they said of Ziegfeld- “no expense has been spared” with the physical production. The costumes by Martin Pakledinaz are tasteful and gorgeous and just plain ‘S Wonderful. I couldn’t resist. A wedding gown train, of course there is a wedding – is just about as long as the Nile. Just one of the many sight gags that Ms. Marshall has pulled out of her clever theatrical hat of tricks.
Derek McLane has created some ravishing sets that are beautifully lit by Peter Kaczorowski.
The story line is typically silly. But played straight and so it works. Rich, good looking but not the brightest banana in the bunch, playboy Jimmy Winter (Matthew Broderick) is about to be married for the fourth time to Eileen Evergreen (Jennifer Laura Thompson) the famous modern dancer and daughter of Senator Max Evergreen (Terry Beaver). The previous evening, at a Speakeasy, a drunken Jimmy meets up with bootlegger Billie Bendix (Kelli O’Hara). And guess what? They connect…
Let’s stop right here. Mr. Broderick although charming delivers his lines in an off handed manner verging on dull and appears to be a playboy gone to paunch – a little too old to continue his little boy pout business. His light singing voice works well for the period – a cross between Astaire and Rudy Vallee. He whistles and plays the uke. And dances adequately. His partnering of O’Hara in ‘S Wonderful is just that. Kelli O’Hara tries her best to be tough as the bootlegger but reverts to her naturally gorgeous voice when crooning. That being said they both are pleasurable if not perfectly cast.
Now for the really good stuff. Michael McGrath (McGee) and Chris Sullivan (Mahoney) cohorts of Billie are tremendously amusing as they hide the hooch in Jimmy’s summer mansion’s cellar out on Long Island where the ensuing mix-ups, revelations and falling for someone unforeseen takes place. Mahoney whose first name is Duke attracts Jeannie Muldoon (Robyn Hurder) who thinks she could one day be Queen of England. Their “Blah Blah Blah” duet is a hoot. But it is Michael McGrath who practically walks away with the show.
Judy Kaye, the straight as an arrow Duchess Dulworth is delicious as a temperance fanatic. When McGee spikes her lemonade and she literally swings into things she’s madcap fun at its best.
Chief Berry, a personable Stanley Wayne Mathis, makes a trio out of the duet “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” as he mediates between Billie and Jimmy. It’s a refreshing look at the old standard in its new context.
Jimmy’s mother Millicent (Estelle Parsons) makes a late entrance in Act II and the wait is well worth it as she ties up loose ends and makes for the celebratory happy ending that allows the audience to leave the very uncomfortable Imperial Theatre with stiff knees and a big smile while humming some of the great tunes by the brothers Gershwin. Nice work.
www.niceworkonbroadway.com Photos: Joan Marcus
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