Most of the songs the Gershwin brothers wrote for Broadway were wasted on shows with plots and characters so preposterous they can't be revived for modern audiences that expect to be treated like reasonably intelligent adults.
"Girl Crazy," for instance, had to be rewritten into "Crazy for You" by Ken Ludwig so we could enjoy such classics as "Embraceable You" in a Broadway context. So why not five mini-shows in one to support a repackaging of more than 40 George and Ira songs?
Five appealing Broadway hopefuls pump youthful exuberance into " 'S Wonderful," making its New York debut at Gateway Performing Arts Center. Crisply directed by Ray Roderick, who created the show around which these, yes, wonderful songs are constructed, " 'S Wonderful" premiered last summer in Pittsburgh.
Each story -- surprise! -- leads to romance. First, we meet Harold, played by Matthew Crowle, in 1924 New York. He's a newspaper typesetter who'd rather be an investigative reporter. In trying to break a story during lunch hour, he finds himself handcuffed to a beauty (Deidre Haren) with expensive tastes. They're a winning song-and-dance pair on "Nice Work If You Can Get It"/"I Got Rhythm," whirling in Jose Rivera's flashy period costumes.
Nina's story, sung by Ashley Betton, is bittersweet. Her boyfriend and best friend run off together, leaving her on her own in 1957 New Orleans, belting out a soulful "It Ain't Necessarily So."
Next, Haren tells Leslie's story set in wartime Paris to the tune of -- what else? -- "An American in Paris," the Jazz Age classic played by music director Nathan Perry and his lush onstage orchestra on an Art Deco bandstand by Brittany Loesch. Leslie meets and, of course, falls for a hunky sailor (athletic Sean Watkins), who returns from combat for the "Our Love Is Here to Stay" duet.
Then it's Jane's turn. A Hollywood makeup artist played by Stephanie Koenig lives out a 1948 on-screen fantasy through such rollicking numbers as "Do Do Do (What You Done Done Done Before)."
In the modern-day finale, Watkins receives a gift from Grandma: an iPod crammed with one dreamy gem after another, including a smashing "They Can't Take That Away From Me," choreographed for five by Vince Pesce.
A Gershwin musical time-travelogue, " 'S Wonderful" is "swell."