Nice Work If You Can Get It
Nice Work If You Can Get It is a musical featuring songs by George and Ira Gershwin, with a book written by Joe DiPietro, and based on material by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse. Nice Work premiered on Broadway in April 2012. The musical was initially produced in 2001 at the Goodspeed Opera House titled They All Laughed!, with the book by Joe DiPietro and direction by Christopher Ashley. The musical received “mixed notices” according to Frank Rizzo, writing in the Hartford Courant. New collaborators and producers then became involved.
A workshop was held in November 2007, featuring Harry Connick, Jr. and Erin Dilly. At that time, the show was titled Heaven on Earth. The musical was first scheduled to debut at the Colonial Theatre in Boston, running from December 2008 through January 2009. The production was expected to open on Broadway in Spring 2009, with Harry Connick, Jr. However, in 2008 it was announced that the musical was “officially postponed”, due to a change in the producing team; Connick ultimately left the project. An original Broadway cast recording was recorded in May 2012 for the Shout! Factory label and distributed by Sony Records. The album was released in September 2012.
Preview performances began on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on March 29, 2012 with the opening on April 24, 2012. Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, the cast starring Matthew Broderick (Jimmy Winter) and Kelli O’Hara (Billie Bendix). The production closed on June 15, 2013, after 27 previews and 478 regular performances.
A US national tour of the musical started September 2, 2014 at the Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas, and ran, with an extended break for the winter holidays, until March 22, 2015. It finished at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California.
The Australian premiere, a non-replica production directed by Roger Hodgman for The Production Company, played at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne from August 15 to 23, 2015. It featured Rohan Browne, Esther Hannaford, Christie Whelan-Browne, John Wood, Gina Riley, George Kapiniaris, and Nicki Wendt.
The UK premiere ran at Upstairs at The Gatehouse in London from 12 December 2018 to 27 January 2019. It was directed by John Plews (assisted by Lata Nobes), with choreography by Grant Murphy (assisted by Amy Perry), musical supervision by Charlie Ingles, musical direction by Chris Poon, design by Pollyanna Elston, sound design by Nico Menghini (assisted by Alistair Warr & Rachel Darwood), lighting design by Sam Waddington (assisted by Bethany Gupwell), costume supervision by Nadine Froehlich, wigs by Jessica Plews, production management by Christopher Silvester, stage management by Ally Southern & Bethany Barrington-Davis, production photography by Darren Bell, casting by Debbie O’Brien, produced by Katie Plews for Ovation Productions.
Cast and Characters
|Jimmy Winter||Matthew Broderick||Alex Enterline||Alistair So|
|Billie Bendix||Kelli O’Hara||Mariah MacFarlane||Jessica-Elizabeth Nelson|
|Senator Max Evergreen||Terry Beaver||Benjamin Perez||Stuart Simons|
|Jeannie Muldoon||Robyn Hurder||Stephanie Gandolfo||Abigail Earnshaw|
|Duchess Estonia Dulworth||Judy Kaye||Stephanie Harter Gilmore||Nova Skipp|
|Chief Berry||Stanley Wayne Mathis||Thomas Schario||Harry Cooper-Millar|
|Cookie McGee||Michael McGrath||Reed Campbell||David Pendlebury|
|Millicent Winter||Estelle Parsons||Barbara Weetman||Grace McInerny|
|Duke Mahoney||Chris Sullivan||Aaron Fried||Fraser Fraser|
|Eileen Evergreen||Jennifer Laura Thompson||Rachel Scarr||Charlotte Scally|
Notable Broadway Replacements
- For Millicent Winter: Blythe Danner (December 2012)
- For Billie Bendix: Jessie Mueller (April 2, 2013)
It’s 1927, in the midst of a riotous bachelor party for the oft-married Jimmy Winter (“Sweet and Lowdown”). Outside, a trio of bootleggers – Cookie, Billie and Duke – are trying to figure out where to hide the 400 cases of gin they have stashed on their boat. As a stranger approaches, Duke and Cookie rush off. A drunken Jimmy staggers and comes across the pants-wearing Billie and is immediately smitten. He explains his plight – he must marry someone respectable or his mother will disinherit him, so he’s marrying someone he doesn’t truly love. Billie isn’t all that interested in his tale of woe, until he reveals that he has a huge Long Island beach house that he never uses, so she swipes his wallet to discover the address. Jimmy assumes Billie is falling for him, but Billie insists that love is for suckers. Jimmy vehemently disagrees (“Nice Work If You Can Get It”). Jimmy passes out, and Billie focuses on this interesting man unconscious on the ground before her (“Nice Work If You Can Get It – Reprise”). Cookie and Duke rush back on, and Billie tells them that she found a place to store their bootleg – a Long Island beach house. A police whistle pierces the air, and the bootleggers scatter. Senator Max Evergreen and Chief Berry enter, along with Duchess Estonia Dulworth, who has brought along her Vice Squad and vows to rid society of its greatest evil (“Demon Rum”).
The next morning, Billie, Cookie and Duke have stored their 400 cases of gin in the cellar of Jimmy’s ritzy beach house. Eileen Evergreen, the finest interpreter of modern dance in the world, enters with Jimmy. They were married that morning, and they are on their honeymoon, though Eileen has yet to allow Jimmy to touch her. Cookie, disguised as a butler, enters and they naturally assume he’s their servant. They send him off, and Eileen tells Jimmy that she’s ready for the honeymoon shenanigans to begin – as soon as she takes a bath. She exits into the house as Billie enters, stunned to see Jimmy. Jimmy has no memory of meeting her last night, and as Jimmy flirts with her, Billie confesses that she’s never been kissed. Strictly for educational purposes, Jimmy kisses Billie, and she realizes what she’s been missing (“Someone to Watch Over Me”).
Four and a half hours later, Eileen is still bathing (“Delishious”). In the ritzy living room, Cookie and Billie devise a plan for Billie to distract Jimmy from the 400 cases of gin in his cellar. Billie runs off as Jimmy enters, followed by a gaggle of chorus girls who invite him for a group swim, which Jimmy almost accepts (“I’ve Got to be There”). Eileen enters with a flourish, and just as she is about to let Jimmy touch her, he receives a telegram revealing that his last wife has refused to sign the annulment, and an irate Eileen storms off to get her father. That night in Jimmy’s ritzy bedroom, Billie breaks in and tries to seduce him, badly (“Treat Me Rough”). Chief Berry, who has been pursuing Billie, barges in to arrest her. But Jimmy convinces him that Billie is actually his newest wife (“Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”) and Billie and Jimmy are forced to spend the whole night together in his bedroom.
The next morning, Jeannie, a happy-go-lucky chorus girl, comes upon Duke, a lug from New Jersey, and mistakes him for an actual English Duke. Duke, who is perpetually nervous around women, tries to escape, but Jeannie does everything in her power to get him to notice her (“Do it Again”).
In the ritzy living room, Jimmy and Billie realize that they are hopelessly in love (“‘S Wonderful”) But Eileen returns with her father – the ultra-conservative Senator Evergreen – and her aunt – the Duchess Estonia Dulworth – to demand that Jimmy and Eileen have a legal wedding. Jimmy has no choice but to marry Eileen, and Billie pretends to be a cockney maid so she can stick around and guard the bootleg. As Eileen beelines towards the cellar to get the wedding china, Jimmy and Cookie frantically distract the wedding party away from the basement (“Fascinating Rhythm”) as the curtain falls.
On the ritzy terrace, the Vice Squad and Chorus Girls revel (“Lady Be Good”). Billie enters and realizes she’ll never be as happy as the dancing revelers around her (“But Not For Me”). Cookie and Duke enter and, since they’re all now disguised as servants, they plot how they can get the impending wedding luncheon over and done with as quickly as possible. The Duchess barrels on to instruct Cookie in the finer points of luncheon preparation. She insists on hiring a string quartet for entertainment, but Cookie has other ideas (“By Strauss” / “Sweet and Lowdown – Reprise”).
As Billie sets the ritzy luncheon table, Jimmy makes one last attempt to appease her (“Do, Do, Do”). But Billie will have none of it. As the luncheon begins, Cookie and Duke frantically serve the luncheon guests, and the Duchess continues to annoy Cookie, who spikes her lemonade with Gin. Billie entertains them all with a cockney song (“Hangin’ Around With You”) which mainly serves as an excuse to keep pouring hot soup on Jimmy’s lap. But Billie accidentally pours some steaming soup onto Eileen, who immediately fires her. The Duchess, now happily drunk, defends Billie and reveals a deep secret as she grabs onto Cookie, climbs on the luncheon table and swings from a chandelier (“Looking for a Boy”). After he drags off the Duchess, an angry Jimmy calls Billie a common criminal, and they realize that they can never be together. Jimmy goes to prepare for his wedding, as Jeannie enters looking for Duke, who Billie accidentally reveals isn’t a real duke. Jeannie is furious, so Duke tries to win her over with a poem (“Blah Blah Blah”), but Jeannie rushes away.
In the ritzy bedroom, Cookie is dressing Jimmy for his wedding as Billie enters to return his wallet. Jimmy and Billie both realize that this is the last time they’ll ever see each other (“Will You Remember Me?”).
The Chorus Girls and Vice Squad set up the wedding (“I’ve Got To Be There – Reprise”). As Senator Evergreen presides, Eileen makes her very grand entrance (“I’ve Got a Crush on You”). But just before vows are exchanged, Cookie and Duke rush in, pretending to be Prohibition Agents, though Chief Berry quickly enters and reveals their true identities. As they’re arrested, Jeannie rushes in and proclaims her love for Duke, then the now sober Duchess proclaims her love for Cookie. Still, Senator Evergreen insists the bootleggers must be arrested, but Jimmy’s mother, Millicent, makes an appearance, revealing the true nature of her son’s heritage – Senator Evergreen is Jimmy’s father. The senator proclaims the day a joyous one and all are free to pursue their new and surprising loves. Jimmy realizes that Billie has rushed to the boathouse to sail away forever, and he rushes to swear his devotion to her. Millicent follows and reveals that she happens to be the biggest rum-runner on Long Island, and she’d like Billie to marry her son and take over her business. Billie happily accepts (“Someone to Watch Over Me – Reprise”). And on the ritzy terrace under a starry night, love has blossomed, the bootleg is opened and the company celebrates their new found joy (“They All Laughed!”).
Reviews of the Broadway production were mixed to positive. Ben Brantley, in his New York Times review, wrote: “Every now and then, a bubble of pure, tickling charm rises from the artificial froth of “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” the pastiche of a 1920s musical featuring songs by George and Ira Gershwin. Most of this show, which opened on Tuesday night at the Imperial Theater, registers as a shiny, dutiful trickle of jokes and dance numbers performed by talented people who don’t entirely connect with the whimsy of a bygone genre. […] But then, all at once, there’s a moment of delicate ridiculousness, of utterly credible improbability, that signals what Kathleen Marshall, the production’s director and choreographer, must have been aiming for.”
The USA Today reviewer wrote: “[…] director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall and a stellar cast ensure that the show is as charming in execution as it is disheartening in theory. […] For every sharp line, there are a couple that will make you wince — or would, if they weren’t delivered with such disarming spirit and skill. […] Broderick fares predictably well in the kind of role he does best: a sweetly deadpan social doofus. O’Hara proves once again that there’s pretty much nothing she can’t do on stage. […] [T]he excellent Judy Kaye, playing a smug Prohibition advocate, sips spiked lemonade and gets flamboyantly frisky.”
The Newsday reviewer wrote: “Kathleen Marshall […] has put together a rowdy, dopey-smart, dance-driven screwball comedy that never shies from the extravagant edge of clunky silliness. Kelli O’Hara and Matthew Broderick may not seem a likely romantic couple. But their different styles — her crisp and sublime professionalism, his sleepy-faced cunning naiveté and low-watt skills — spark unexpected chemistry. At least they are very sweet together. Joe DiPietro […] has used some outlines of “Oh, Kay,” a genuine Prohibition fluff ball from 1926, for his new story. He switches the power of the illegal-hooch gang from the guys to a plucky woman in guy’s clothes—O’Hara.”
Awards and Nominations
Original Broadway Production
|2012||Tony Award||Best Musical||Nominated|
|Best Book of a Musical||Joe DiPietro||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Kelli O’Hara||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical||Michael McGrath||Won|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Judy Kaye||Won|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Kathleen Marshall||Nominated|
|Best Orchestrations||Bill Elliott||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Martin Pakledinaz||Nominated|
|Best Sound Design||Brian Ronan||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Book of a Musical||Joe DiPietro||Won|
|Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Kelli O’Hara||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||Michael McGrath||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Judy Kaye||Won|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Kathleen Marshall||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costume Design||Martin Pakledinaz||Nominated|
|Grammy Award||Best Musical Theater Album||Nominated|
- Sommer, Elyse. “A CurtainUp Review. ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ “ CurtainUp.com, April 21, 2012
- Jones, Kenneth. S’wonderful: They All Laughed! Begins World Preem Run at Goodspeed June 29″ playbill.com, June 29, 2001
- Rizzo, Frank. Broadway’s “Nice Work” Rings a Goodspeed Bell” Hartford Courant, December 20, 2011
- Jones, Kenneth. “Kathleen Marshall To Make Matthew Broderick Tap-Happy in Broadway’s Nice Work Musical in 2012” Archived 2012-10-21 at the Wayback Machine Playbill.com, June 16, 2011
- New York Production Listings, backstage.com, June 24, 2009
- Gans, Andrew. “Connick, Jr. to Return to Broadway in Nice Work If You Can Get It; Marshall at Helm”, Playbill, May 5, 2008
- Jones, Kenneth.“Producing Partners of Nice Work Musical Part Ways; Marshall Is Out, Connick Remains” Playbill, June 2, 2008
- “A delay for ‘Nice Work’ with Harry Connick Jr.”, The Boston Globe, July 25, 2008
- Nice Work If You Can Get It Will End Broadway Run in June; National Tour Planned Playbill.com, April 24, 2013
- Alex Enterline and Mariah MacFarlane Set to Lead NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT Tour; Full Cast Announced Retrieved August 21, 2014
- Woodhead, Cameron (16 August 2015). “Nice Work if You Can Get it zings with comic verve”. The Age. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
- Brantley, Ben. “Theater Review. Falling in Love, Footstep by Footstep” The New York Times, April 24, 2012
- Gardner, Elysa. Broderick and cast do a nice job with ‘Nice Work'” USA Today, April 24, 2012
- Winer, Linda. “It is ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It'” Newsday, April 24, 2012
- BWW News Desk.“‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ Cast Album in the Works!” broadwayworld.com
- Gordon, David.Shout! Factory to Release Nice Work If You Can Get It Broadway Cast Recording” theatermania.com, May 17, 2012