Scott Landis, Roger Berlind,
Sonia Friedman Productions, Roy Furman,
Nice Work If You Can Get It
A New Musical Comedy
Music & Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin
Book by Joe DiPietro
249 West 45th Street
Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara
Michael McGrath, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Chris Sullivan
Robyn Hurder, Stanley Wayne Mathis, Terry Beaver
Judy Kaye and Estelle Parsons
And an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers
Directed and Choreographed by Kathleen Marshall
Music Supervision: David Chase
Set Design: Derek McLane
Costume Design: Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Hair & Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Makeup Design: Angelina Avallone
Projection Design: Alexander V. Nichols
Casting: Binder Casting
Jay Binder/Jack Bowdan
Orchestrator: Bill Elliott
Music Director: Tom Murray
Music Coordinator: Seymour Red Press
Assoc. Director: Marc Bruni
Assoc. Choreographer: David Eggers
Advertising & Marketing: Serino/Coyne
Technical Director: Neil Mazzella
Production Stage Manager: Bonnie L. Becker
General Management: 101 Productions, Ltd.
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 21. 2012 Matinee
For a few days I’ve been humming (in my mind) “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “Lady Be Good”, and “Fascinatin’ Rhythm”. Unfortunately, the music that plays in my mind is devoid of vocals, with the orchestra as the star. Although Kelli O’Hara is vocally talented, with a captivating voice that revels in holding a tune, she doesn’t seize the stage like Sutton Foster did in another Kathleen Marshall director/choreographer production, Anything Goes, which I’ve seen twice. This revelation hit early in Act I, when I realized that Ms. O’Hara would not wow as she did in South Pacific. Moreover, Matthew Broderick, an engaging character actor with adorable presence, is not what I’d call a dancer/singer (I remember him in The Producers, more for his lines than his lyrics).
As the lead duo, Ms. O’Hara, as Billie Bendix, a bootlegger, who watches the turf with a rifle slung over her shoulder, and Mr. Broderick, as Jimmy Winter, an aging, boozy trust-fund baby, with his own chorus line of floozies, have chemistry as thin as gin. In film, with glitzy technology, this could be a perfect match. In fact, the whole show could take on a Busby-Berkeley visual effect, with kaleidoscopic graphics of dancers, musicians, and singers. But, at the Imperial Theatre, it was like retro television, a small screen feel.
Joe DiPietro has created the book for Nice Work… that showcases a dozen or more Gershwin tunes. But, the plot is thin, with bootleggers looking to stash the bottles, and cops looking for the stash. Jimmy starts out as a targeted pawn and ends up as a targeted flame. But, there are silver threads in this frail tinsel. Michael McGrath, as Cookie McGee, pulls out the stops on an award-worthy performance as a crook, posing as Jimmy’s butler. Cookie’s emotions turn soft, with Jimmy depending on him for shirts and socks and therapy, and, as with Billie, events take rapid, predictable turns. Another silver thread is Judy Kaye, as Duchess Dulworth, a hefty enforcer of prohibition, for whom liquor brings out her wild side. The audience screamed with delight, when Ms. Kaye danced in air, grasping a chandelier in inebriated fervor. The third silver lining was a late, brief spotlight for Estelle Parsons, as Jimmy’s mother Millicent. She, like Mr. McGrath and Ms. Kaye, commanded the stage with outsized presence, giving the show a final boost. Ms. Marshall’s choreography, as always, was energized and elegant, with Charleston kick lines and one segment with Mr. Broderick rolling on the floor, with his floozies as human rugs.
Derek McLane’s scenery and Martin Pakledinaz’ costumes were colorful, capricious, and clever. Lighting by Peter Kaczorowski added a fine glow to the rambunctious song and dance tunes, and Brian Ronan’s sound brought out the best in the orchestrations. Tom Murray conducted with rousing aplomb, but, at night’s end, I wistfully thought of New York City Ballet’s Balanchine work, “Who Cares?”, a true Gershwin musical celebration, that leaves every tune replaying in a loop in my mind.