Musicals today often come to Broadway based on movies featuring large flash sets, millions of projections, and lighting that could light the whole state - they are simply there to dazzle you for two and a half hours, and that is all well and good; however, Broadway has needed a reminder of the golden years! The days when music, dance, love, and laughs filled the stage to not only entertain, but tell a story of love! Nice Work If You Can Get It is just that musical. Using the songs of George and Ira Gershwin, a book written by Joe DiPietro, the direction of Kathleen Marshall, and two of Broadway’s biggest names, this new musical comedy is light, sweet, and entertaining. It does, however, fall a bit short of perfect - a lagging plot, drawn out songs, and some lapse in comedy, make this piece fall short of the perfect old fashioned musical it is trying to become. Nice Work If You Can Get It is lovely fun, but fails to shine the way one might hope when seeing all of the grade A+ professions listed in the Playbill.
Meet Jimmy Winter, a drunken playboy who is about to marry wife number four. Enter stage left, Billie Bendix, an alcohol smuggler during the prohibition. Two different worlds, but one heart. The classic boy-meets-girl comedy is resurrected as Jimmy and Billie desperately try to find love in New York in the year 1927. As the prohibition rages on, Duchess Estonia Dulworth and her brother Senator Max Evergreen, fight the war on alcohol all while trying to plan the wedding of Eileen Evergreen and Jimmy. To add to the mix up, Billie’s partners in crime, Cookie McGee and Duke Mahoney, wind up posing as a butler and chef in order to hide the fact that their stash of alcohol in hidden in the mansion where the action of the play is taking place. Door slamming, wise cracks, and sex farce run high as everyone tries to weave their own way out of trouble; the only problem is that every could really use a strong drink to help them figure it all out!
Broadway icons sing and dance their way through the Gershwin’s classic hits, such as “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” and “But Not for Me.” Led by the triple threat duo of Matthew Broderick (The Producers) and Kelli O’Hara (South Pacific), this new musical is given the star power to shine. Broderick does a nice job playing the drunken playboy; while at times his performances feels a bit tired and worn, he still has the vocal and dance chops to help him along. Broderick still delivers with his charm and wit in order to be the perfect companion for O’Hara, who shines as always with her stunning voice, high energy, and awesome dance work. She lights up the stage with each song and dance number, and leaves the audience begging for more at the end of each ballet. This dream team unites and does a lovely job falling through all of the ups and downs of a love-at-first-sight relationship. Surrounding Broderick and O’Hara is an ensemble of extremely talented performers. Michael McGrath (Memphis) and Chris Sullivan (Lombardi) shine as the “alcohol gangsters” forced to go undercover. Both are terrific charter actors that promise a laugh with each scene that they are in! Jennifer Laura Thompson (Lend Me A Tenor) uses her wonderful vocal chops to belt out the classic “Delishious” while immersed in a giant tub filled with floating bubbles and endless chorus girls. Also taking a turn in the spotlight is Judy Kaye (Mamma Mia!) as Duchess Estonia Dulworth. Kaye takes the comedy level up a notch as the tightly wound Duchess slowly loses her uptight ways. The rest of the ensemble does a fine job of moving to the stunning and non-stop choreography of Kathleen Marshall. The entire ensemble gels together to deliver a fine performance in dance, voice, and comedy.
Master mind Kathleen Marshall (the current revival of Anything Goes) takes the music of the Gershwin’s and the words of Joe DiPietro (Memphis) in order to recreate the feel of the original musical comedies. DiPietro does a nice job with the book, creating a world the in light and fun, but hounded with long songs that ultimately make the piece feel dragged out and a little too long. The phrase ‘too much of a good thing’ can easily be applied to this new Broadway musical. Too many song and dance numbers, while arranged well, drag out a story that is really simple and has no need to be dragged on through almost three hours. Even the designs felt to me a bit too much. While the scenic design from Derek McLane (the current revival of The Best Man) is lush and gorgeous, it is extremely over powering making the performers feel claustrophobic in what is supposed to be a huge mansion. Lighting design from Peter Kaczorowski (Venus in Fur) was beautiful, but was forced to change colors at the start of each new song after only a few lines a dialogue. Costume designer Martin Pakledinaz (The Normal Heart) is the shining star of the production team creating period pieces that are stunningly crafted and just marvelous to look at. Over all, director Kathleen Marshall does a nice job with this piece, but did not take it the extra notch needed to make this new romp stand out as the next best original musical.
Nice Work If You Can Get It offers an enjoyable night at the theatre, full of crazy good dancing, great vocals, and light chuckles. Broderick and O’Hara do their job to make the audience escape into the world of the prohibition through song and dance. In the end, however, the audience walks out singing something like, “It’s a nice comedy if you can get it, and get it well … they tried.”