Every few years somebody grabs the songbook of some great American songwriter, and puts together a musical pastiche of old-fashioned musical comedy. There’s Crazy for You, and even the version of Anything Goes currently playing on Broadway falls partially in this category. So now we have Nice Work if You Can Get It, which takes the Gershwin’s tunes and puts them together with a thin plot loosely based on the 1926 Gershwin show Oh, Kay! Essentially, playboy boy Jimmy (Matthew Broderick) meets bootlegger girl Billie (Kelli O’Hara) and mayhem ensues. These shows are usually feather-light confections, and the diverting Nice Work is no different.
Bookwriter Joe DiPietro has been working on this property for a very long time, and he has got the balance of silliness and bite exactly right (lots of silly, just a bit of bite). There’s a moment of Billie singing sentimentally while cocking a rifle, which sums up the sensibility that DiPietro brings to the show. Derek McLane’s sets are jewel-boxes full of secret compartments, and Martin Pakledinaz’s costumes are witty delights.
The supporting cast is terrific – Michael McGrath gets the lion’s share of the evening’s laughs as tough guy Cookie McGee, and Judy Kaye is terrific as temperance crusader Duchess Duckworth (who has a few kooky personality traits behind a crusty exterior). O’Hara is the best thing that happens to the Gershwin’s songs in the show; her “Treat Me Rough” is a hoot and a half, and her “But Not for Me” at the top of Act II is truly affecting.
And as for Matthew Broderick, as you might expect he just “does” Matthew Broderick, all smirky deadpan – which happens to work pretty well for the role of Jimmy. And he dances better that I’ve ever seen him do. No, he’s never going to be the principal in a Twyla Tharp show, but he’s working hard at doing justice to director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall’s footwork – and mostly making it seem effortless. A personal best for this non-dancer.
If you are looking for frothy, traditional musical comedy fun, Marshall’s got you covered. Between this and her Anything Goes, Broadway’s got plenty of the fizzy stuff right now.
For tickets, click here.