Posted in #MatthewBroderickNathanLane2GetherAgain, Jack O'Brien, Matthew Broderick, Megan Mullally, Nathan Lane, Stockard Channing, Terrence McNally

Too modest by half: McNally’s "It’s Only A Play"

Rupert Grint, Megan Mullally, Matthew Broderick, Nathan
Lane, and Stockard Channing in a scene from Terrence
McNally’s It’s Only A Play, directed by Jack O’Brien, at the
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Matthew Broderick’s inflections suggest a deeply wounded soul. As Peter Austin, a playwright awaiting opening night notices, in Terrence McNally’s It’s Only A Play at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in a limited 18 week run through January 4, 2015, he delivers his lines with an aggressive hesitance, that seems perfectly suited to his character. Each sentence is punctuated through the middle, which adds a certain piquancy to the play.

Megan Mullally and Nathan Lane in a scene from It’s Only
A Play.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

Peter’s best friend, James Wicker (Nathan Lane) is also jittery. He expects bad press, but he is actually more distressed over the fate of the sitcom that kept him from being in Peter’s Broadway debut.

Lane, by the way, is on stage and either delivering or reacting to the funny zingers for the entirety of this comedy. He is in every sense of the word “on!” Lane’s performance is wonderful.

It’s Only A Play mocks everyone involved in the theater. Critics are skewered, of course, and embodied as Ira Drew (F. Murray Abraham,) a particularly nasty specimen. Actors are self-absorbed, and playwrights are needy. Hotshot British directors, in this case an eccentric Frank Finger (Rupert Grint, ) are made fun of for their ubiquitous successes. Sir Frank yearns for a failure.

Micah Stock, Megan Mullally, Rupert Grint and Nathan Lane
in a scene from It’s Only A Play. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Even matinee audiences are not safe. Virginia Noyes (Stockard Channing) really sticks it to the seniors in their headsets. The producer, Julia Budder (Megan Mullally,) whose gorgeous bedroom (designed by Scott Pask) is the setting for the post-opening soiree, drops misquotes and malapropisms at fever pitch. Not to dwell too much on voices, but Mullally’s squeaky delivery is delightfully antic. Rounding out the cast is the hat-check boy, Gus P. Head (Micah Stock, who has some shticks of his own to add.)

The pace of It’s Only A Play is kept moving at a steady and uproarious clip under Jack O’Brien’s able direction. In an excellent cast, standing out along with Lane is Stockard Channing who gives a grand and understated performance in a role that could go way over the top, and goes just right.

Unlike poor Peter Austin, playwright Terrence McNally will be able to add this hit to his slew of award-winning Broadway productions. Be warned that your fifteen year old from Atlanta might not be as happy at It’s Only A Play as we were.

It’s Only A Play is a theater-crowd pleasing satiric comedy, with great sets and lovely elegant costumes (by Ann Roth), a star-studded cast, and very witty name-dropping dialog.

Additional commentary from Tamara Beck can be found at VevlynsPen.com.

For more information about It’s Only A Play, please visit http://itsonlyaplay.com/

Posted in Gershwins, Kelli O'Hara, Matthew Broderick, musical comedy, new book, old songs

A New Gershwin Musical Is "Nice Work" Indeed

Ira and George Gershwin are the rare pair of musicians who can posthumously launch a Broadway hit.

“Nice Work If You Can Get It,” at the Imperial Theatre in an open run, is a brand-new old musical, reworked by Joe DiPietro (2010 Tony for “Memphis”.) DiPietro’s script was inspired by material from Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse who collaborated on the book for the Gershwin’s 1926 “Oh, Kay!”

In “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Matthew Broderick plays the endearingly inept Jimmy Winter, a playboy on the verge of his fourth marriage. Kelli O’Hara is the tom-boyish bootlegger Billie Bendix.

(To see videos from the musical, click here.) With the police, in the person of Stanley Wayne Mathis as Chief Berry, and Senator Max Evergreen (Terry Beaver) with his prohibitionist sister, Duchess Estonia Dulworth (Judy Kaye) on their trail, Billie and her crew, Cookie McGee (Michael McGrath) and Duke Mahoney (Chris Sullivan) need a place to stash 400 cases of contraband booze. Jimmy’s seldon used Long Island mansion has a cellar that looks to be the perfect spot.

Joe DiPietro toys with the romantic comedy formula so that the expected happy endings offer some neat surprises. And even when you see it coming, the plot is bolstered by a tune aptly plucked from the rich Gershwin canon. “Nice Work…’ is completely adorable. Matthew Broderick’s guileless charm makes you feel at home in Jimmy’s “Ritzy Beach House.”

Kelli O’Hara, last seen as Nellie Forbush in

South Pacific

, is a big talent with a lovely voice and a natural ease on stage. Broderick’s pleasant voice is buoyed by his castmates, many of whom give superb performances.

The gypsies, dancing and singing in support of the main characters, under the direction and with choreography by Kathleen Marshall, are all excellent. The jazz era costumes by Martin Pakledinaz are resplendent and colorful.

Estelle Parsons is very funny in a near-cameo as Jimmy’s mother Millicent Winter. Robyn Hurder is delightful as Jeannie Muldoon, the chorus girl who longs to be the queen of England. Other outstanding members of the large ensemble cast are Michael McGrath whose gangster character goes undercover as the butler. Judy Kaye exercises her full range of voice and comedic skills, and some acrobatics, as the teetotalling Duchess Estonia.

“Nice Work If You Can Get It” …”and you can get it, if you try.”

For more information on “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” please visit their website. /More shortly…..