A Decade After The Producers, Matthew Broderick's Back in a Broadway Musical

By Brandon Voss
14 Apr 2012

Broderick and Nathan Lane in The Producers.
photo by Paul Kolnik
Nice Work is the second Gershwin musical to grace Broadway this season after The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. Gershwin tunes have also provided the framework for hit Broadway musicals of the past such as My One and Only and Crazy For You. Broderick understands what makes the Gershwin songbook and the Broadway stage a great match. "The lyrics are incredibly clever and delicious, and the tunes are so good that you can't get them out of your head," he says. "In fact, I'll get home from the show and still have the songs in my head. Somebody told me that if you can clear out whatever's stuck in there by singing 'Yesterday' by the Beatles, so that's what I've been trying to do."

Aside from Marshall's involvement and the catchy score, Broderick was immediately attracted to Nice Work's libretto. Written by Memphis Tony winner Joe DiPietro, the new book is inspired by Oh, Kay!, a Gershwin musical that opened at the Imperial in 1926. "It's very special," Broderick says. "The songs are old, but Joe's book is surprisingly funny and fresh. It helps the show feel anything but old-fashioned."

Broderick plays Jimmy Winter, a wealthy, popular bon vivant who lives in a large Long Island mansion. "He's on his fourth or fifth marriage — even the character isn't sure — and he's sort of a happy drunk or whatever you'd call a guy who likes to have a good time the way people did in 1920s, drinking champagne and dancing around like maniacs."

Broderick in rehearsal
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

To get a better feeling for the period, Broderick watched a lot of old movies on TCM. "I've stolen from so many things," he says, "but the truth is that I usually only watch really old movies anyway. I'm like a very old man." Particular inspiration has come from 1936's "My Man Godfrey" and Warren William pictures like 1932's "Skyscraper Souls." "I like anything where the man has a pencil-thin mustache."

Jimmy strikes up a romance with Billie Bendix, a tough-talking bootlegger played by three-time Tony nominee Kelli O'Hara. "Kelli has such a good handle on love stories, but she's also one of the best singers that Broadway has right now," Broderick raves, singling out her most recent Broadway appearance as Nellie Forbush in Lincoln Center's acclaimed revival of South Pacific. "I'd be happy to hear her sing anything, anytime."

But how does O'Hara compare to Nathan Lane as an onstage partner? "Well, she's prettier," says Broderick with a laugh. "If Kelli and I can generate half the romantic chemistry that Nathan and I had, I think we'll be just fine."

(A version of this article appears in the April 2012 issue of Playbill magazine.)