Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Tale of Two Musicals 'Nice Work If You Can Get It' Succeeds While 'Leap of Faith' Fails

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Tale of Two Musicals 'Nice Work If You Can Get It' Succeeds While 'Leap of Faith' Fails

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- The 2012 Tony Award nominations have a Pittsburgh tinge, led most prominently by Kathleen Marshall, nominated twice, as director and choreographer for the new Gershwin musical, "Nice Work If You Can Get It"; Jeff Calhoun, director of Disney's new musical, "Newsies"; and Christian Borle, supporting actor in a play as Black Stache (the young Captain Hook) in "Peter and the Starcatcher."

That's Squirrel Hill, Wexford and Fox Chapel, if you're keeping score of what Pittsburgh actually means in these cases, as what Pittsburgher wouldn't? But scoring big at Tony time (June 10) is most likely to be Mr. Borle, because Ms. Marshall and Mr. Calhoun have to go up against the consensus pick for best new musical, "Once."

More about the awards later. Today, it's time to review. Leading up to Tony time, the Post-Gazette will have eight Broadway reviews - - four musicals (one already defunct) and four plays (two new and two weighty revivals).

'Nice Work If You Can Get It'

Who can resist a confection such as book writer Joe DiPietro and director Ms. Marshall have whipped up out of a heavenly Gershwin score, abetted by a solid company of acting pros? Who can, in effect, ask for anything more?

Judging from some reviews, some can -- those who claim either that you can have too much of a good thing or this just isn't as perfect a frothy Gershwin confection (as opposed to a full Gershwin banquet such as "Porgy and Bess") as it should be. Opinions will differ, but I noticed that much of the audience had the same silly grins on their faces as I did.

First, let's forget the prejudice against "remaking" Gershwin. Although composer George died young in 1937 and lyricist Ira, old, in 1983, their legacy has been kept fresh on the stage, to a large extent by "Crazy for You" (1992), based on "Girl Crazy" (1930), and "My One and Only" (1983), based on "Funny Face" (1927). When it works, it works.

Similarly, "Nice Work If You Can Get It" is a free adaptation of "Oh, Kay!" (1926). Very free! Like the others, it happily ransacks other Gershwin shows for great songs, plus another dozen instrumental compositions: If anyone gets a Tony, it should be orchestrator Bill Elliott. But of the resulting songs -- and here the critic represses his urge to turn the whole review into a list of all 20 songs -- only about two started in "Oh, Kay!," with the others coming from all over, often Gershwin movie scores.

In fact, the knitting together of the songs, and the sometimes witty way the contexts you expect are altered, and then re-altered when the song comes back (as many do, more than once) for a reprise, is perhaps the show's chief creative triumph. "Nice Work" is mainly a feast of Gershwin.

OK, I'll stop resisting. Here are a few glories: "Nice Work If You Can Get It," of course, and "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," "They All Laughed," "Fascinating Rhythm," "But Not for Me," " 'S Wonderful" and (my favorite re-appropriation to a funny new context), "Blah Blah Blah. …

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