Nice Work If You Can Get It Gorges on Gershwin

Matthew Broderick, Kelli O'Hara, Judy Kaye, and lots and lots of George

One might feel the same about “Looking for a Boy,” which goes pretty high up on the list of songs not suitable for elderly-spinster characters, except that Judy Kaye has a miraculous gift for turning any material she’s handed, however inappropriate, to truthful comic account. Kaye also has, as all knowledgeable Broadway-goers know, a spectacular and solidly well-trained singing voice, plus a personality that can project, like Broderick’s or O’Hara’s, to warm a large house, as well as no shame or fear about taking risks. Yes, this is the show in which the elderly spinster gets drunk and warbles coloratura while swinging from the chandelier, and I liked it. In the hands of 999 out of a thousand other actresses, it would be an embarrassing exploitation of a painfully trite cheap gag, but we are talking about Judy Kaye, so the moment is real and treasurable.

Bright spots Judy Kaye and Michael McGrath
Joan Marcus
Bright spots Judy Kaye and Michael McGrath

Details

Nice Work If You Can Get It
By George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, and Joe DiPietro
Imperial Theatre
249 West 45th Street
212-239-6200, niceworkonbroadway.com

Kaye doesn’t stand alone. McGrath, a fast and inventive comic, does more than merely make do with the less-than-great fixings he’s been handed; Parsons, as the dea ex machina, adds snap and incisiveness; Beaver gives his stereotyped role multiple shadings. And while the set and lighting design match the book and score in overdoing—where did lighting designer Peter Kaczorowski get the loathsome idea that icky pastel-colored washes enhance a musical number?—Martin Pakledinaz’s costumes, smart, elegantly cut, and varicolored, save the design world’s honor. Within the mess of Nice Work If You Can Get It, you could find a good deal of actual nice work—if only they’d clear away some of the excess junk they’ve heaped on top of it.

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