The cast is spot-on. Is there any ingenue role in musical theater that Kelli O’Hara — of “The Pajama Game” and “South Pacific” revivals — couldn’t make her very own? In “Nice Work,” even given a stellar cast, when she’s on the stage she often is the single focus, by sheer force of her ability to sing any song fully in character, and deliver it with a striking musicality. This leaves her leading man, Matthew Broderick, in an uncomfortable position. Although his part of a rich playboy with a low-wattage brain means he must appear as a constant shade of gray among the colorful characters on stage, a part he delivers earnestly, his singing seems only serviceable by comparison to O’Hara’s.
NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT Broadway Reviews
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Broderick is winningly paired with the luminous Kelli O’Hara (South Pacific), and the leads are backed by a string of top-notch character turns. Throw in 21 tunes from two of the preeminent practitioners of the American musical and you have a cocktail that should go down easily with Broadway nostalgists. It might also draw audiences seduced by the magic and glamour of Jazz Age entertainment in this year’s Oscar-winner The Artist.
True, Nice Work If You Can Get It (* * * out of four) doesn't use an inane story line to simply string together a beloved band or singer's catalog or a bunch of disparate rock chestnuts. Instead, it uses an inane story line to string together the timeless songs of George and Ira Gershwin. This distinction shouldn't make Nice Work, which opened Tuesday at the Imperial Theatre, any more encouraging to people who care about keeping musical theater fresh and vital. But director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall and a stellar cast ensure that the show is as charming in execution as it is disheartening in theory.
While O'Hara and Matthew Broderick are the stars on stage, the real credit for this very enjoyable romp goes to book writer Joe DiPietro and director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall. They've managed to take about 20 songs from the George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin catalog, marry them to the skeleton of the 1926 musical "O, Kay!" and emerge with a plot that makes madcap sense with songs that feel right for the occasion. If this is a jukebox musical, this is how you do it right.
The musical flits between delightful and exasperating on a second-by-second basis — boosted by terrific supporting players (especially Judy Kaye as a zealous teetotaler) and dragged down by Broderick, who waltzes alongside his costars with the good-natured boredom of a tipsy wedding guest. Luckily for him, the show has a built-in fail-safe: the Gershwin songbook, a portable fireworks kit of dazzlers ('Someone to Watch Over Me,' 'Do It Again') guaranteed to charm just about anyone, theater fan or not.
As the perma-sozzled, dimwitted, oft-married heir Jimmy Winter, Broderick—having been delivered to his marks by the tide of Marshall’s choreography and staging—proceeds to nail his gags dead-on, make it tipsily through his big dance with his towboy bootlegger love-interest Billie Bendix (Kelli O’Hara), and warble George-and-Ira’s melodies with pleasant Muppetry. Who could ask for anything more?
Every now and then, a bubble of pure, tickling charm rises from the artificial froth of “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” the pastiche of a 1920s musical featuring songs by George and Ira Gershwin. Most of this show, which opened on Tuesday night at the Imperial Theater, registers as a shiny, dutiful trickle of jokes and dance numbers performed by talented people who don’t entirely connect with the whimsy of a bygone genre.
The newly manufactured 1920s-set musical "Nice Work if You Can Get It" crams vintage Gershwin songs into a bubbly crowdpleaser, enchantingly rendered by thesps Kelli O'Hara, Michael McGrath and Judy Kaye. Mix in staging and choreography by Kathleen Marshall ("Anything Goes") and a cheerfully screwball if somewhat creaky new book by Joe DiPietro, and you've got what might be termed a good new old-fashioned musical. If only its likable, hard-working leading man -- a miscast Matthew Broderick -- didn't seem to be painfully concentrating on his next step, all night long.
While Kathleen Marshall's crowd-pleasing production lacks the inspired showstopper choreography of her revival of "Anything Goes," it makes for nonstop giddy fun thanks to its dynamic cast, Joe DiPietro's wickedly funny dialogue and a treasure trove of timeless Gershwin favorites and rarities. At first, Broderick seems ill at ease, especially while dancing. But soon enough he wins over the audience with his charm and thin but pleasant singing voice. O'Hara, best remembered as Nellie Forbush in the "South Pacific" revival, proves that she can also sparkle in a silly comedy.
Overall, the show is too afraid of emotional engagement, which is silly when you have these songs and O'Hara's voice and Broderick's likable self to deliver them. More truth and honesty would make the work considerably nicer — and, for the audience, easier to get.
You’d think that any show involving the talents of Matthew Broderick, Kelli O’Hara, Kathleen Marshall, and the brothers Gershwin would be a sure-fire Broadway stunner, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” despite a few bright spots, fails to hold together as a glittering entertainment, unlike previous efforts such as “My One and Only” and “Crazy for You.”
The show, drawing hither and yon from the Gershwin songbook, demonstrates how hard it is to create the illusion of effortless whimsy. A new book by Joe DiPietro pays heavy-handed tribute to the flimsy plots that Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse once devised for George and Ira to showcase their sublime ditties. The result is mostly a flop-sweat inducing affair. However appealing Broderick and O’Hara are individually, as romantic leads, they’re weak sparks on damp leaves. Fortunately, a pair of first-rate second bananas -- Judy Kaye and Michael McGrath -- partly salvage this misguided enterprise.