Matthew Broderick Is Back on Broadway: My Review

Categories: Theater

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Apparently Rent never happened. Neither did Spring Awakening. Even Oklahoma! never took place.

Nice Work If You Can Get It floats us back to 1920s froth full of absurd plot twists, incongruous couplings, and bouncy/dreamy songs.

A trunk show inspired by material by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, with a score by George and Ira Gershwin, it's Broadway at its least adventurous, but aims for a fizz level that'll turn "anything goes" situations into carefree entertainment.

Matthew Broderick plays a drunken playboy about to marry his fourth wife to please his mother, who wants him to earn some respectability before running the family business (though he's such a mess that she won't even tell him what that business is).

Broderick scores laughs and gamely dances up and down stairs, but he goes for a too-blasé approach that archly seems to comment on the material as he performs it.

Opposite him is Kelli O'Hara, who plays a bootlegger--dressed as a man--who has never been kissed, making for Broadway's second drag king in a row. (See One Man, Two Guvnors for the other crime-related cross-dresser).

O'Hara is wonderfully unforced and does lovely work with the ballads ("Someone to Watch Over Me") and the physical comedy as she evolves into her femininity.

But when she later has to pretend to be a Cockney maid--you heard me--her performance starts to lose some energy, with one incarnation too many.

The class comedy provides good turns for Jennifer Laura Thompson as a vacuous modern dance diva; Michael McGrath as a criminal pretending to be a butler; and Judy Kaye as an anti-boozin' duchess who hilariously ends up smashed and swinging from the chandelier.

(No, not the same chandelier from Phantom of the Opera, for which Kaye won a Tony.)

And at the 11th hour, Estelle Parsons barrels in as Broderick's mother to toss off some jokes about sex and politics and to announce a crazy new plot twist.

(You'll never believe what the family business is. No, really, you won't.)

Songs, shtick, romance, and politician bashing--a frolicsome old-style mix, zingily staged by Kathleen Marshall, and featuring a strong ensemble.

But when the champagne tastes flat--as with a strained joke or a badly shoehorned-in standard--one starts wondering if nostalgia is what it used to be.

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10 comments
youloveoreos
youloveoreos

don't agree with your review.  I thought the show was great fun and Broderick's dryness should not be confused with blase.  His portrayal highlights the madcap fun around him and allows all others their moments.  Wonderful music and orchestrations.  This show is worth seeing!!

Southern Dave
Southern Dave

But it has MATTHEW, KELLI, JUDY, ESTELLE and the GERSHWINS: How bad could it be?I mean, the Gershwin ghosts are certainly better than the "Ghost" ghosts.

This sounds like a charm show  "if you can get it and you can get it if you try."

Gcndc
Gcndc

This must be your busy season, you seem to be going to a different show every night!  Lucky you.

Allen Firth
Allen Firth

How would you compare this to 1992's "Crazy for You" ?  Same composers, basically the same songs, different plot... but still.... just curious.  I think the nephews and nieces and in-laws running the Gershwin Estate are milking it dry lately ("Porgy and Bess," this trunk show, etc.).

Musto
Musto

Crazy For You was a notch better. And it was so long ago that it seemed fresher.

Geraldine Winifred Visco
Geraldine Winifred Visco

I agree totally with your review of Nice Work. There were good moments, but it was definitely trying to be hard to be retro twenties and many of the jokes and scenes seemed stale. On the other hand, it had a few good moments and the cast was professoinal. If the playwright and director had been more creative, off-beat, and rigorous with the material, it could have been a far more original night out on Broadway.  If they're going to invest all that money in a production, they should have someone honest on hand to tell them the TRUTH before opening. Luckily, my roommate Gugu, won preview tickets at Bianca del Rio's Monday night show at The Ritz, so we didn't have to pay a dime!

Musto
Musto

I agree. Professional and rather fun, but needed that extra spark of imagination to lift it up and make it really memorable.

I love Broadway Baby
I love Broadway Baby

This sounds like something I will love. Have to wait one more week and it is so far away. I adore old time musicals but I also adore Rent, Spring Awakening and I think I will love this. I love O'Hara and the rest of the cast.

Hayniisport
Hayniisport

Thanks for pointing out the Judy Kaye chandelier connection. You're so perceptive.

Ginga
Ginga

This sounds fun but in a sort of vacuous way. I didn't like Anything Goes, so I'll avoid this too.

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