THE WEEK between Christmas and the New Year is one of Broadway’s biggest weeks, reaping big box office by audiences hungry for entertainment. Many under-performing shows stay open for business so their producers can recoup a little more of their investment before shuttering in the new year; the biomusical Chaplin starring the sensational Rob McClure shutters January 6, 2013 after not connecting with audiences and critics. Other shows have limited engagements knowing full well that audiences will disappear. Nevertheless, the show must goes on as the New York sky turns a relentless, bleak gray. With that, producers of some shows hope to make it through city’s winter to see their investments spring back into life as the temps warm up and the crowds return.
One show that should continue is Nice Work If You Can Get It, the 2012 Tony-award winning musical that features music by the legendary Gershwin brothers, George and Ira. Two-time Tony winner Matthew Broderick and Tony nominee Kelli O’Hara star in this musical comedy farce based on shows from the 1920s that populated the stage. Broderick plays Jimmy Winter, a clueless, carefree and wealthy playboy during Prohibition who keeps on marrying chorus girls, usually after a night after heavy drinking. While engaged to a ditzy, loud and untalented modern dancer, Eileen Evergreen (Jennifer Laura Thompson), the daughter of a moralistic Senator, he meets Billie Bendix (O’Hara), an attractive bootlegger who dresses like a man. Romantic sparks may flicker but Billie must take care of business and stashes 400 cases of booze at Jimmy’s home in the Hamptons, thinking he wouldn’t be home. When he shows up, Billie and her cohorts, Cookie McGee (Michael McGrath) and Duke Mahoney (Chris Sullivan), must assume household jobs to keep the charade going when the Senator (Terry Beaver) and his sister, Duchess Estonia Dulworth (Judy Kaye) arrive to plan the couple’s wedding. The Duchess is also on a mission to rid the country of any illegal booze. To further complicate matters between Jimmy and Billie’s budding affection, his mother (Blythe Danner) threatens to cut him off if he doesn’t get his life together.
Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall (2011’s Tonywinning Anything Goes), the production shines brightly in many ways. Joe DiPietro’s book (based on material by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse), contains many memorable jokes, many of which are given to Broderick, that seem to be a little adlibbed, but are hilarious nonetheless. The entire stellar cast has a grand time working each moment. Broderick and O’Hara get very close to cracking each other up, especially as his dim-witted Jimmy’s comments continue to confound, yielding big laughs. And O’Hara sounds heavenly as she did in her earlier Broadway shows – Light in the Piazza and the revival of South Pacific – with lovely renditions of Gershwins’ finest, including Someone to Watch Over Me. Thompson’s gift is her ability to bring her screwball-comedy character to life. But the show receives a huge jolt every time McGrath and Kaye, the show’s Tony winners, appear on stage, especially together. They both steal all the scenes they’re in - The sets and the costumes are the tops too.
Nice Work If You Can Get It is currently playing at the Imperial Theatre in New York. Go to niceworkonbroadway.com for tickets.