Wednesday, April 25, 2012

'S (Mostly) Wonderful

Full disclosure: I love myself an old fashioned musical, especially when Gershwin music is involved. So it was pretty easy for me to fall for the charms of Nice Work If You Can Get It, which opened last night at the Imperial Theatre.

This "new" musical comedy is inspired by the 1926 musical Oh, Kay!. Joe DiPietro's (Memphis) update to Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse's book feels surprisingly fresh, not in terms of the paper-thin plot, but the jokes landing with ease. Jimmy Winter (Matthew Broderick, whose dimwit schtick is getting old, as is he) is a playboy getting married for the fourth time to the finest interpreter of modern dance in the world, Eileen Evergreen (the hilarious Jennifer Laura Thompson). He meets Billie Bendix (the always dependable Kelli O'Hara), a tomboyish bootlegger, and they fall in love. Broderick and O'Hara don't have much chemistry, but for some reason, it didn't seem to matter. The love story doesn't make much sense anyway, but you don't go to shows like this for believability.

Director Kathleen Marshall gets some nice bits of staging in, which also help put a new spin on old material. Take O'Hara singing the classic "Someone to Watch Over Me" while holding a gun. I tend to think that any show can be shorter, so I was concerned about the 2 hour and 40 minute run time, but the show entertains throughout. Sure, there are silly, unnecessary subplots, but the strong supporting cast make those scenes a pleasure to watch. The true stars, other than the score, are Michael McGrath as the "butler" Cookie McGee and Judy Kaye as Estonia Dulworth, whose duet of "Sweet and Lowdown" and "By Strauss" is the highlight of the show. I'd give Derek McLane's opulent set design top billing as well.

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

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