Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review: 'Nice Work If You Can Get It' Employed at the Imperial Theatre

(photo: TheHopefulTraveler)
Kelli O'Hara (Billie Bendix) and Matthew Broderick (Jimmy Winter).
(production photos: Joan Marcus)
Thinking of how to describe my experience at the new Broadway musical of Gershwin standards called ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’, now playing at the Imperial Theatre, I felt like it would be easier to just copy and paste my review from a year ago of the revival of ‘Anything Goes’. Both are fluffy pieces of entertainment, all pure silliness filled with old-fashioned stage magic and glamour. No deep messages in either show.

Whereas the revival of ‘Anything’ uses an enhanced book of the original version, Joe Di Pietro (‘Memphis’) uses the loose framework of ‘Oh, Kay!’ also by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse and reworks the entire enterprise dispensing with most of the music written for the show and interpolates other songs, one of which is used for the title, of George and Ira Gershwin. Ultimately Di Pietro has concocted a multiple plotline story that is pretty fancy hangar for each Gershwin tune. If none of the twenty-one songs have nothing to do with the story, it’s actually nice to hear them refreshed in the fine orchestrations by Bill Elliott.

‘Nice Work’ takes place during the Roaring Twenties and stars Matthew Broderick as Jimmy Winter, a wealthy playboy about to marry his fourth wife. The preceding women were all chorus girls but current fiancĂ©e Eileen Evergreen (Jennifer Laura Thompson) is as she puts it “the finest interpreter of modern dance in the world.” But something or rather someone gets in the way. That someone is Billie Bendix (Kelli O’Hara), a female bootlegger, who stashes a warehouse of booze at Jimmy’s vacant Long Island mansion while evading government agents.

Judy Kaye (Duchess Estonia Dulworth) and
Michael McGrath (Cookie McGee).
Matthew Broderick and the company of 'Nice Work If You Can Get It'.
Broderick has proved his song and dance talents in the mega-hit musical ‘The Producers’ but in ‘Nice Work’ and with a director/choreographer (Kathleen Marshall) in charge, he was gonna have a lot more dancing to do. But Marshall makes use of his awkwardness and Broderick gamely takes on the challenge. If Broderick’s Jimmy seems a bit dim for his own good, this is in contrast to O’Hara’s Billie tough as nails character who just happens to have a lilting soprano. Picture her singing “Someone to Watch Over Me” in slacks while holding a shotgun and you get the joke. Broderick still embodies the boyish charm and combined with O’Hara’s unexpected comic timing, they make an appealing pair for the stage.

But this musical is so richly cast that others steal the spotlight mainly Michael McGrath as Cookie McGee, one of Billy’s cohorts forced into posing as Jimmy’s butler, and Judy Kaye as Duchess Estonia Dulworth, who is on the crusade as the proud founder of the Society of Dry Women. Kaye has a showstopper that has her swinging all boozed-up from a chandelier; and their duet or vocal dual or mash up, if you will, of the waltzy “By Strauss” against the jazzy notes of “Sweet of Lowdown” is priceless.

The company of 'Nice Work If You Can Get It'.
Chris Sullivan (Duke Mahoney) and Robyn Hurder (Jeannie Muldoon)
Jennifer Laura Thompson takes the spotlight early in the show as she sings “Delishious” in a bathtub full of faux bubbles from which rise a line of chorus girls. The show is so lighthearted that the role could have been the bitchy foil that forces our hand to want Jimmy to be with Billy but Thompson imparts a shade of temperance that just makes her simply just as misguided as Jimmy. Another cutesy plotline involves another of Billy’s crew, Duke Mahoney, played by Chris Sullivan who is mistaken for an actual duke in the British Royal Family by a gold-digging chorus girl named Jeannie Muldoom played by Robyn Hurder. But the writers don’t stop there, it what nearly amounts to a stage cameo the durable Estelle Parsons make an after 10pm appearance as Jimmy’s mother and has the solution to all the shenanigans.

I can’t blame Marshall for putting a lot of choreography but so much dancing is obvious when we’re wanting to see more of the daffy characters. Technical aspects are superb with the whimsical sets of Derek McLane, ample dazzling costumes from Martin Pakledinaz and sparkling lighting by Peter Kaczorowski.

For such a bubbly concoction that is ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’, the happy ending is a given. It’s the journey taken in generous sips that makes it all worthwhile.

  • Website:
  • Where: Imperial Theatre
  • Location: 249 West 4th Street
  • When: Tue 7pm: Wed 2pm & 8pm; Thu 7pm; Fri 8pm; Sat 2pm & 8pm; Sun 3pm
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 35 min
  • Ticket Prices: $47-$152 (premium $199.50-250.50)
  • Opening: Apr 24, 2012 (previews from Mar 29, 2012)
  • Closing: Open Ended
  • Book Online:
  • Ticket Services: 1-800-432-7250
  • Cast Recording: (Update 9/4/12, Original Broadway Cast Recording available 10/30/12)

Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara.
Matthew Broderick and the company of 'Nice Work If You Can Get It'.
Jennifer Laura Thompson (Eileen Evergreen) and the company of
'Nice Work If You Can Get It'.
Terry Beaver (Senator Max Evergreen), Estelle Parsons (Millicent Winter),
Kelly O'Hara and Matthew Broderick.
The company of 'Nice Work If You Can Get It'.
Matthew Broderick
Kelli O'Hara


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