PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Joe DiPietro, Librettist of Nice Work If You Can Get It

By Kenneth Jones
14 Apr 2012

Joe DiPietro
Joe DiPietro
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Joe DiPietro, the Tony Award-winning librettist and co-songwriter of Memphis, gets in touch with his screwball-comedy passion for Broadway's "new" Gershwin musical Nice Work If You Can Get It.

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Musicals, they say, aren't written — they're rewritten. It takes a lot of collaborators, a lot of time, a lot of revisions to make a crafty show. Ask Joe DiPietro. His new Broadway musical, Nice Work If You Can Get It, has been brewing for several years; it even had a developmental production by Goodspeed Musicals in 2001, under the title They All Laughed!

The tune-filled Jazz Age-set show, based on the 1926 Gershwin brothers' Oh, Kay!, now has fresh collaborators (including Anything Goes Tony winner Kathleen Marshall at the helm and David Chase as music supervisor), new plot, added classic numbers by George and Ira Gershwin, new producers — and new stars in Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara. We grabbed a few minutes with DiPietro in between rehearsals, shortly before previews began at the Imperial Theatre — the same house where Oh, Kay! played on Broadway during Prohibition.



(It should be noted that some of the information below — such as sing titles — is subject to change prior to the show's official opening night, April 24.)

What was the seed of Nice Work If You Can Get It? What prompted it?
Joe DiPietro: The Gershwins' [estate] approached me about taking their musical, Oh, Kay!, which was produced in 1926 — they wrote it for Gertrude Lawrence, their buddy — to refashion it into a brand new musical. So they gave me the script of Oh, Kay! and said, "Take the germ of the idea, and take any songs you want from the Gershwin songbook except from Porgy and Bess and make of it what you will." And so, I took this kernel of an idea [the original libretto was by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse], and made a brand-new musical…that takes place at the same time that the original musical took place in. I took many other songs from the glorious Gershwin songbook.

 

Kelli O'Hara in rehearsal
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

What was your original master wish-list of songs like? Did you have 60 hit numbers and cut it down?
JD: Oh, yeah. I essentially listened to every Gershwin song — many, many versions of each. I wanted to use many of their standards, but I also wanted the show to discover a few new songs, so there's a song called "Demon Rum" that I believe was cut from one of the movies that they were working on — it's about the evils of liquor. We have a Prohibitionist in the show, played by the brilliant Judy Kaye, so we gave that song to her. [The score has] many, many songs that we all know and love, sung by glorious voices and [with] glorious arrangements, and also a few new songs that you've probably never heard before, and will be "Gershwin discoveries."

Read more about Nice Work If You Can Get It in the Playbill Vault.

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