NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT Send This Review to a Friend
One only has to hear the first bit of the overture to know that at a minimum there will be plenty to enjoy with music and lyrics by the great George and Ira Gershwin transplanted into the newly-created musical “Nice Work If You Can Get It.” But the whole show turns out to be nice work, with Joe DiPietro’s book, inspired by material by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, yielding abundant laughs hammered home by just the right cast. I haven’t had such a rollicking good time at a musical since the revival of “Anything Goes.”
Kelli O’Hara can do anything. As the female lead, bootlegging Billie Bendix, she not only sings like an angel in romantic numbers such as “But Not for Me” and “Someone to Watch over Me” (in that one while holding a rifle—talk about originality), but is devilishly funny with “Treat Me Rough.” In the latter she engages in some wickedly amusing choreography. In a total change of pace she also dances perkily in the get-up of a maid.
O’Hara is perfectly paired with Matthew Broderick, who, although not a dashing leading man type in the clichéd sense, has charismatic charm all his own playing the rich Jimmy Winter. His low-key approach is comically smooth, his timing superb. He excels in the musical numbers, as in “’S Wonderful,” and he dances appealingly too in his playful manner.
This is a show that glistens with beautiful chorus girls and good-looking male “Vice Squad” dancers, delightfully creative choreography by Kathleen Marshall, sumptuous sets by Derek McLane, striking costumes designed by Martin Pakledinaz to fit the 1927 period and strong featured performers who vie for attention in their own right. The book is a ditsy affair involving the use of a mansion to hide booze from the snooping feds, a straight-laced woman crusader against alcohol, a secret kingpin of the bootlegging world, and the unlikely romance between Billie and Jimmy caught in a maze of complications, including an intended wedding to a woman Jimmy doesn’t want. Marshall as director keeps everything going at a fast clip, punctuated by the surprises she springs with her choreography. There’s a bathtub scene that’s a particular gem.
Judy Kaye is a dynamic attraction as Duchess Estonia Dulworth, who campaigns against booze, exemplified in the “Demon Rum” number. We, of course, eventually get another side of her when she sings “Looking for a Boy,” along with another show-stealer, the excellent Michael McGrath as Cookie McGee. Plaudits are due Chris Sullivan as Duke Mahoney, Terry Beaver as Senator Max Evergreen and Jennifer Laura Thompson as Eileen Evergreen, Jimmy’s intended.
A special coup is saved for the latter part of the production-- the arrival of the inimitable Estelle Parsons as Millicent Winter, Jimmy’s brassy mother, who has surprises in store. Parsons suddenly dominates the stage with the aura of a star.
All the while, in addition to the barrage of comic situations and funny lines, we are getting the magical Gershwin music and lyrics with numbers such as “Sweet and Lowdown,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “Fascinating Rhythm,” “Lady Be Good,” “By Strauss,” “Blah, Blah, Blah,” “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” “They All Laughed” and more.
There is one welcome treat after another in this giant helping of talent-driven entertainment. At the Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th Street. Phone: 212-239-6200.