It is 'Nice Work If You Can Get It'

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REVIEW

Call it a Franken-musical, stitched together out of body parts from different shows. But "Nice Work If You Can Get It," which has been sewn together with a grab bag of wondrous Gershwin songs and a preposterous new-old bootlegging comedy, is a happy creature -- loose and larky and altogether comfortable in its snappily dressed patchwork skin.

Kathleen Marshall, whose award-winning direction and choreography often have struck me as more functionally admirable than lovably original, has put together a rowdy, dopey-smart, dance-driven screwball comedy that never shies from the extravagant edge of clunky silliness.

Kelli O'Hara and Matthew Broderick may not seem a likely romantic couple. But their different styles -- her crisp and sublime professionalism, his sleepy-faced cunning naiveté and low-watt skills -- spark unexpected chemistry. At least they are very sweet together.

Joe DiPietro ("Memphis") has used some outlines of "Oh, Kay," a genuine Prohibition fluff ball from 1926, for his new story. He switches the power of the illegal-hooch gang from the guys to a plucky woman in guy's clothes -- O'Hara. She tries to hide a stash in the cellar of a Long Island beach mansion, owned by the debauched, adored, multi-married playboy -- no kidding, Broderick.

There are cleverly foolish and lavish old-fashioned sets by Derek McLane and comical yet gorgeous costumes by Martin Pakledinaz (Marshall's team from "Anything Goes"). The big cast includes the terrific Michael McGrath as a fast-mouthed thug, a kind of Nathan Lane foil for Broderick's light comedy faux-sincerity.

Judy Kaye literally hangs from the chandelier as the dowager prohibitionist with the operetta belt. Estelle Parsons has a cameo as Broderick's supposedly disapproving mother, and Jennifer Laura Thompson has pinpoint comic timing as his ritzy, self-adoring fiancee.

And then there are the songs by George and Ira Gershwin, not just the title classic, but "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," "Fascinating Rhythm,"

"'S Wonderful," and lesser-known, equally irresistible treasures. O'Hara, with a freshness and spontaneity that should contradict her meticulous vocal technique, brandishes a shotgun while wistfully singing "Someone to Watch Over Me." Broderick, with a stiff upper-body posture that suggests he's balancing an egg on his head, lets us enjoy the surprise of his easygoing accurate voice and fleet feet.

The chorus is big and healthy and lusty, with choreography that appreciates individuality as much as precision. This may not be important work, but it's much more than nice.

WHAT "Nice Work If You Can Get It"

WHERE Imperial Theatre, 249 W. 45th St.

INFO $46.50-$146.50; 212-239-6200; niceworkonbroadway.com

BOTTOM LINE Happy and foolish Gershwin patchwork, beautifully done

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