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Nice Work If You Can Get It

Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara lead a truly talented troupe in this scintillating tuner full of Gershwin songs, broad jokes, and dazzlingly inventive dancing. logo
Kelli O'Hara and Matthew Broderick
in Nice Work If You Can Get It
(© Joan Marcus)
Anyone who has a strong objection to first-rate musical comedy entertainment better steer clear of Nice Work If You Can Get It, now at the Imperial Theatre. Anyone else willing to surrender to the throwaway charm of Matthew Broderick, Kelli O'Hara's unlimited singing and acting abilities, a panoply of endlessly infectious George and Ira Gershwin songs, and director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall's unbounded inventiveness should snag tickets instantly.

No argument is being made here that the scintillating tuner forges new paths. It adamantly doesn't. The ditties have been cherry-picked from those the Gershwins dreamed up for several Broadway and Hollywood productions -- including such beloved chestnuts as "They All Laughed" and "S"Wonderful" -- and Joe DiPietro's apolitical comic libretto is drawn in part from material by P. G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton.

Yet, this boy-meet-girl tale is a fresh reminder of what can set heads humming and feet tapping when great singers, hoofers, and beloved stage clowns (all bedecked here in Martin Pakledinaz's luscious Jazz-Age costumes) are let loose to chant as many hot numbers and tell as many broad jokes as can be engineered into two-and-half-hours.

The plot from which all this hilarity springs has wealthy playboy Jimmy Winter (Broderick) falling for bootlegger Billie Bendix (O'Hara) -- and kinda vice versa -- after they meet outside a raided Manhattan speakeasy. Armed with his wallet and some inside info, Billie takes off for Jimmy's huge Long Island summer shack (well designed by Derek McLane) with buddies Cookie McGee (Michael McGrath) and Duke Mahoney (Chris Sullivan) in tow to store a slew of contraband hooch.

The catch is that Jimmy shows up at the manse to marry his fourth wife -- modern dancer Eileen Evergreen (Jennifer Laura Thompson) -- just as the bootleggers move in. And they're not alone: the not-so-happy couple are being stalked by her aunt, the prohibition-mad Duchess Estonia Dulworth (Judy Kaye), her strait-laced father, Senator Max Evergreen (Terry Beaver), and police chief Berry (Stanley Wayne Mathis), who is intent on catching any lawbreakers he suspects are nearby.

As Jimmy, Broderick always seems slightly baffled by what goes on around him. He also sings with Fred Astaire's conviction and -- this is a good thing -- dances as if his brain isn't sure of what his feet are doing. O'Hara, often cast as more refined types, goes Bronx tomboy as Billie and is delightful at it. And her crooning of "Someone to Watch Over Me" and roughhouse rendition of "Treat Me Rough" simply can't be beat.

But everyone in this truly talented troupe excels, including Robyn Hurder as bombshell Jeannie Muldoon, the legendary Estelle Parsons, who makes a comical late entrance as Jimmy's disdainful mother, and a dozen lovely and handsome singer-dancers.

In short, Nice Work is heaps more than nice work -- it's great fun -- and you can get it right now.

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