Gershwin Tuner Works Hard to Deliver the Goods

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Gershwin tuner works hard to deliver the goods

LEGIT: NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (BROADWAY)

Imperta!; 1.439 seats; $136.50 top

Director: Kathleen ManhaH; Cast: Matthew Broderfck, KB· O'Hara, Chris SuNhm

The newly manufactured 1920s-set musical "Nice Work If You Can Get It1' crams vintage Gershwin songs into a bubbly crowdpleaeer, enchantingly rendered by thesps KeUi 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 - didnt seem to be painfully concentrating on his next step, all night long.

DiPietro ("Memphis") has borrowed plot and characters from the 1926 musical "Oh, Kay!" for this Prohibition-«!» tale of a dissipated playboy (Broderick) who falls for a distaff bootlegger (O'Hara). She in turn illicitly commandeers his Long Island mansion to store her illegal hooch. Comic misunderstandings ensue and eventually resolve into four or five sets of happy lovers, plus lots of dancing.

Twenty-one Gershwin tunes are shoehorned in; many sparkle, some don't quite fit, and a couple of long-lost tunes don't deserve disinterment. "Nice Work" is also carpeted with underscoring pulled from George's symphonic catalog, so it's wall-to-wall Gershwin for aficionados, compiled by an uncredited music expert who clearly knows his or her stuff.

Cast is, for the most part, topnotch. O'Hara ("South Pacific") has long displayed one of the best singing voices currently on the boards, but nothing thus far has shown off her aptitude for clowning. Her tomboyish bootlegger here is not only a first-class mug but a first-class mugger, turning pratfalls with ease.

Broderick proved perfectly capable in The Producers." Here, though, he is given dance number after dance number, and while he's able to get his legs working, more or less, his upper body is so distressingly rigid that he dances like he's strapped into a neck brace. When "Nice Work" gets frothy, as it frequently does, he kicks up his heels in a manner that leaves one feeling sorry for the actor, which continually lets the helium out of the figurative balloon.

The supporting clowns provide plenty of joy. McGrath ("Spamalot"), an always reliable musical comedian, outdoes himself in the sort of role that used to be written for Bert Lahr. The equally accomplished Judy Kaye (The Phantom of the Opera") has a harder time of it; her character - Duchess Estonia FuIworth, a Prohibitionist harpy with a tender side - is clumsily drawn, and by the second act, the author has her trilling madly and literally swinging from a chandelier. Still, Kaye pulls it off admirably.

Also on hand are Jennifer Laura Thompson ("Urinetown"), forced to give an evening-long Madeline Kahn impersonation; Robyn Hurder, as a friendly flapper; and Stanley Wayne Mathis as a G-man searching for the booze. …