The weather continues to be strange. In upstate, I’ve this week dodged rain and even occasional snow, but last weekend my wife and I walked in the 70 degree-plus sunshine of Central Park.
It was a good trip to the City, as most trips are. New York is never one place. Walk over a street from any given block, and you step into a strikingly different experience. Next to a swarming commercial center, as if in a parallel universe, you will find a quiet leafy neighborhood.
And so while we spent time last weekend in the whirlwind that is Times Square, we stayed as long in quiet areas. New York has enough of them. Central Park is pleasantly rural even while large numbers go there to walk or play baseball.
Among our favorite places is Greenwich Village. History is everywhere. Many Village homes date back to the 1840’s. My wife and I by ourselves took a literary walking tour. We passed the places where Theodore Dreiser and Sherwood Anderson lived in the 20’s, and the home where Washington Irving lived in the 1830’s. Nearby was a cemetery that, not surprisingly, inspired a poem from Edgar Allen Poe.
Yet perhaps the highlight of the weekend was seeing the Gershwin’s Nice Work if You Can Get It at the Imperial Theatre. The show, then in previews, has since opened.
It’s a reworking of George and Ira’s 1926 musical O Kay! Joe DiPietro, the librettist, did excellent work in leaving in much of the original’s absurdity. The songs appear in strange, somewhat unexpected places, but so did the songs in most early Gershwin musicals.
The glory of the evening, of course, is George Gershwin’s music. Gershwin was one of the greatest Broadway composers, and the show features not merely the O Kay! songs “Do Do Do” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” but also such well known inserts as “But Not for Me”, “The Sweet and Lowdown” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me”. The playing, singing and dancing of out Gershwin’s music almost bodily restores the 1920’s and early 30’s.
The production is well directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, and the cast is impressively strong. Matthew Broderick brings his boyish charm and seasoned comic timing to the part of the drunken playboy Jimmy. Kelli O’Hara, his co-star, has one of the best voices on Broadway, and also does well acting and dancing.
Yet the supporting cast comes close to stealing the show from the leads. Michael McGrath as the bootlegger Cookie and Judy Kaye as a temperance crusader are both hilarious. The scene in which the Kaye character swings from a chandelier after Cookie has spiked her lemonade is one of the show’s highlights.
Something should also be said of Jennifer Laura Thompson, who plays Jimmy’s egotistical fiance Eileen. Ms. Thompson is a little along of the style of the late Madeline Kahn, and may rival her in comic ability.