BWW CD Reviews: NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (Original Broadway Cast) is Decadently Schmaltzy
The album is jam packed with almost 80 minutes worth of Music and Lyrics written by George and Ira Gershwin. The rollicking score, featuring Music Supervision & Arrangements by David Chase, Music Direction by Tom Murray, and Orchestrations by Bill Elliott, captures the roaring 20s and the jazz-era musical soundscape that we associate George Gershwin with. Even on the recording it comes across as a pasted together pastiche in the vein of a jukebox musical, but the orchestra plays with dazzling charm and enthusiasm. They sprightly re-create the tonic and aural qualities that make jazz and compositions by the Gershwins so appealing and timeless.
With all the music, there are terse and passing nods to the show's plot included in the recording. Naturally, the jazzy music accompanies a plot that centers around bootleggers stashing illegal gin in a Long Island mansion while the proprietor of the estate is clueless. That proprietor is a often-married Playboy who falls in love with one of the smugglers. If all of this sounds familiar, it should. Joe DiPietro's Book is derived largely from Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse's OH, KAY!, which George and Ira Gershwin wrote the Music and Lyrics for and opened on Broadway in 1926.
Starring as Playboy Jimmy Winter, Matthew Broderick made his first return to Broadway since Mel Brooks' THE PRODUCERS. On the album he is in good voice, infusing the character and his vocals with the smooth lackadaisical, effortless grace and charm that audiences and his fans alike expect and enjoy. It is clear he is having fun with numbers like "Sweet and Lowdown," "'S Wonderful," "Do Do Do," and "Someone to Watch Over Me (Reprise)."
Opposite Matthew Broderick is Kelli O'Harra as bootlegger Billie Bendix. Her angelic voice is perfectly suited for the tunes granted to her, emphatically selling each one with ease. Her rendition of "Someone to Watch Over Me" may be one of the best ever recorded, bringing fresh and exciting life to a well-known and absolutely beloved standard. Likewise, she is stunning on her sultry rendition of "Treat Me Rough," her gorgeous "But Not for Me," and her comically Cockney "Hangin' Around With You."
The supporting cast offers a handful of delights as well. Judy Kaye is your stereotypical Prohibitionist shrew, bringing bombastic and bold vocals to the score on numbers like "Demon Run" and heavy yet sweet timbre to "Looking for a Boy," which her character sings after she's been slipped lemonade spiked with gin. Jennifer Laura Thompson's Eileen Evergreen is a spoiled heiress, and her persnickety vocals on "Delishious" and "I've Got a Crush On You" adequately convey this. Michael McGrath voices a cartoonish lug masquerading as a butler on numbers like "Fascinating Rhythm," "Sweet and Lowdown (Reprise)," and "Looking for a Boy."
If anything, NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (Original Broadway Cast Album) may simply be too long. The score presented on the record over-indulges and overwhelms listeners with the sounds of the 20s. Almost 100 years removed from the glitz and glam of this scene, a majority of modern audiences grow weary when the schmaltz becomes saccharine. After all, the Broadway performances of NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT had about a 150 minute runtime, with intermission, and the almost 80 minute album is actually missing a few reprises. This isn't to say that the record isn't good. It just gets to be too much of the same thing.
Shout! Factory released NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (Original Broadway Cast Album) digitally on September 25, 2012. The physical CD was released on October 30, 2012. The album can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold.
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Image courtesy of Shout! Factory.