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

By Kenneth Jones
14 Apr 2012

Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara in rehearsal.
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

In prepping this show, did you study scripts to old musical comedies or old screwball-comedy movies?
JD: I am a huge old-movie buff, so I love movies — like 1930s-1940s movies. "Study" would be a very odd term because I actually had a good time. [Laughs.] It was fun studying. I knew all the screwball comedies, so I went back and watched "Bringing Up Baby," "The Awful Truth," "The Women" — because I really wanted to capture not what it really was like, but the sort of fantasy of how the fast-talking, wise-cracking folks [talked], in this case, in 1927. I used old movies as research.

Momentum is a huge part of these kinds of shows. Is that a challenge in a musical?
JD: Yeah, absolutely. You know, the show is very much a big old comedy and a farce. It's tricky in a farce when you put music in because music, by its nature, slows down the speed of a farce. So I worked very hard — and worked with Kathleen — to make sure that all of these songs are integrated. They all hopefully seem like we wrote them for this musical and that they all move the action along in a delightful way.

Memphis aside, you're known as a playwright of comedies. In the rehearsal room, with character actors like Chris Sulivan and Michael McGrath, and an old-movie buff like Matthew Broderick, was there experimentation in the room?
JD: Oh my God, yes. [Laughs.]

Dare I say "bits"?
JD: Yeah, if you want to see "bits," come see Nice Work If You Can Get It! [Laughs.] Between Matthew Broderick, Kelli O'Hara, Judy Kaye, Michael McGrath, Estelle Parsons, Jennifer Laura Thompson, we had a really good time during rehearsal. Hopefully, it will translate to the audience. But you're really working with this wealth of theatre pros. People like Matthew and Michael can give you like five or six different takes on a line. We can experiment with moving things. It's been a very open, creative, fun process.

Did any songs get added late in the rehearsal process?
JD: Oh, yeah. Actually, in rehearsal we added a song called "Hangin' Around With You," which Kelli sings. We needed a song for her character in the second act, so we added that. Kathleen and I decided to use "They All Laughed" as our finale. There was also another song we added for Kelli's character called "Treat Me Rough." We discovered that right before we were coming in. This is really a new musical, so you add songs, you drop songs, you work on different lines. We're in that process. It's called previews for a reason! And, you know, we never done this show, so our first time in front of a New York audience will be the first time anyone's really seen this, so it'll be incredibly exciting and somewhat terrifying. I think that people are really going to have a good time.

Read more about the Broadway musicals with lyrics by Ira Gershwin in the Playbill Vault.  

(Kenneth Jones is managing editor of Follow him on Twitter @PlaybillKenneth.)