We’ve all done it. We’ve all asked a question, and, when met with resounding silence, recycled that age-old (stale-as-shit) Ferris Bueller joke. We maybe even felt like assholes afterward. Or wondered if we were finally turning into our parents. But I am here today to assure you that your tired “Anyone? …Anyone? …Bueller?” was far, FAR from the worst abuse of that maxim.
Because after seeing Nice Work If You Can Get It—the new Broadway tuner starring Ferris himself, Matthew Broderick—I can only conclude that abuse of that question is exactly how the creators cast their lead. Picture it. They’ve had a long, tiring day of seeing actors, and somehow, Cheyenne Jackson still hasn’t appeared (he’s too busy being real life famous, probs). Someone—an assistant, director Kathleen Marshall, who knows—throws his or her hands up in the air and drops an exasperated “Anyone? …Anyone? …Bueller?” and BAM, they have their star.
Because honestly. There’s no other possible way Broderick got the job. Homeboy isn’t really singing, or dancing, or even looking terribly appealing up on that stage. He’s mostly just shuffling around like a reanimated corpse/marshmallow who can’t remember where he is, or what he’s doing. And he’s got exactly zero chemistry with his co-star, the delightful (if wildly underutilized) Kelli O’Hara.
Unfortunately, Matthew Broderick isn’t even the musical’s worst offense, a distinction which belongs to its egregious exploitation of the Gershwin catalog. Because whatever else it might wish to be, Nice Work is really just a Gershwin Jukebox musical, and ruining those songs seems about the biggest offense I can even imagine. But ruin the songs it did. In myriad ways, too. First, the creators blew their load early on the title song by placing a fraction of it within the first 10 minutes of the show. Then there was the really stupid sight gag that turned “Someone to Watch Over Me” into a joke (come ON now, that’s one of the most beautiful ballads in the American Songbook). But honestly, so many of the songs were so misplaced that they ended up feeling as emotionally off-the mark and impotent as the worst Frank Wildhorn musical you can even think of.
Meanwhile, as with many a jukebox musical, Nice Work’s book—written by Joe DiPietro—is about as thick as a communion wafer. And it’s got just as much flavor and texture, too. If the Ferris Bueller joke is stale, this show is fucking fossilized. A knock-off of a knock-off, the material in Nice Work has been recycled so many times that none of it is interesting anymore. The gags and plot-twists are dead before they hit the stage, and this self-styled “sex-farce” is just about the most unsexy thing I can imagine. Watching Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara stage-kiss (come on, team, its 2012, just kiss) made me never want to kiss anyone again.
Try as I might, I just can’t figure out who this was written for. Certainly not me, and frankly… I’m not even sure people my parents’ age would be on board for this totally derivative, totally backward comedy. If the creators are still trying to get my Grandmother to come to the theater, they needn’t bother. She’s dead, and most of her friends are too. Or they will be within the next 10 years. Looks like you might need to find a new audience.
Photo: Joan Marcus