Gershwin music. Matthew Broderick. Kelli O’Hara. Great supporting cast. Zany book. Buoyant choreography. Mix and stir (with bootlegged booze, of course) and you come up with the comical effervescence, Nice Work If You Can Get It.
The musical, loosely based on the Gershwin’s Oh, Kay!, follows the boozy escapades of rich boy Jimmy Winter, a seemingly perpetually soused Matthew Broderick, from his last night of freedom—he’s getting married in the morning—to his chance meeting with bootlegger Billie Bendix, a rough and tumble Kelli O’Hara. Of course they fall in love, then quickly part, only to reunite, purely by accident, at Winter’s Long Island estate which Billie and her gang think is unoccupied. Where better to hide out and stow their bootlegged wares. Unfortunately, Winter and his entourage show up to ignite a host of mistaken identities, hanky-panky, and subterfuge. There is, for those worried sorts, a multitude of happy endings.
Nice Work If You Can Get It is the second Gershwin hodgepodge to make it to Broadway. The first, the charming 1983 musical, My One and Only, also had two charismatic stars in Tommy Tune and Twiggy, plenty of raz-ma-tazz production numbers, and the songs of the Gershwin brothers.
In Nice Work If You Can Get It we have the resplendent Kelli O’Hara, at her playful best. Her gorgeous voice is beautifully tailored to such classics as “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “But Not For Me.” Matthew Broderick, absent from the musical stage since The Producers, has found the perfect vehicle for his talents. Mischievous and puckish, he also brings a devilish attitude and temperament to his role. My only issue with his performance was it seemed more one-dimensional. He reminded me of Dudley Moore’s portrayal in Arthur, a perpetually inebriated playboy. It didn’t hurt his characterization, but a more lively effort would have enhanced the role.
The supporting cast is equally impressive. Tony Award nominated Michael McGrath, as Billie Bendix’s partner in crime, Cookie McGee, is a seasoned comic sidekick that has graced Broadway productions for many years. He, along with fellow Tony Award nominee, Judy Kay, as the Duchess Estonia Dulworth, enliven the production and provide some of the most fun and laughs on stage.
The Gershwin songs in the show highlight a small sampling of the brother’s incredible output. In addition to the aforementioned titles the audience is bedazzled with “Sweet and Lowdown,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “Fascinating Rhythm,” “Lady Be Good,” “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” and many more.
Joe DiPietro’s book has the requisite silliness and daftness of all those musicals of the 1920’s through 1940’s where plot was secondary to pretty girls cavorting on stage (which Nice Work has a lot of) and a lively tune or ballad.
Director/Choreographer Kathleen Marshall has the light touch necessary for the airy feel of the show. Her aim is simple—provide a fun and entertaining diversion. The choreography, while not the full throttle brashness of her work in last year’s Anything Goes, is still deliciously enjoyable especially the moments that Matthew Broderick bounds across the stage.
Nice Work If You Can Get It—a cool, carefree spring tonic for theater-goers looking for a little fizzle in their theater-going experience.