Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Prior to seeing How to Succeed on Broadway, I’d read both good and bad reviews of the show. People who believed that Daniel Radcliffe was not talented enough to portray the lead role J. Pierrepont Finch. Others who thought he did a great job. Others believed the show “dated” and not worth the time. Because I tend to keep bad reviews in the back of my head more often than good reviews, I went into the show with a bit of wariness.

I bought the tickets anyway because I am a fan of fun, colorful musicals. I also wanted to see the show because I remember watching Night Court with John Larroquette as a child, and was anxious to see him playing Mr. Biggley. And because Mary Faber (of American Idiot fame) was in the show and I never got to see her in all of the times I saw American Idiot. And I won’t even lie, I wanted to see Daniel Radcliffe on stage (yes, I bought into stunt casting).

I had pretty great seats for this show. Second row of the mezzanine put my friend and I closer to the stage than the orchestra seats that were left for the performance when I saw the show. The show itself was exactly what I thought it would be. It was comedy with song and dance and a lot of fantastic color. The costuming of the show was amazing. The colors really fit the mood of the show. They were bright and with the colorful lighting of the show, they really added as much character to the show as the actors themselves.

At the beginning of the show, J. Pierrepont Finch is a window washer with a self-help book. The title: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. And Finch sets out to follow the steps in the book. Throughout the show, with lots of comedy and grace, the charismatic Finch works his way to the top and out of disaster after disaster.

After talking his way into a job in the mail room, Finch quickly catches the eye of Rosemary Pilkington, secretary. Rosemary was played by Rose Hemingway, and in my opinion was the true star of the show. She gives her character such honesty and you love her from the beginning. One of her songs that seems “dated” by today’s standards, but fits perfectly with the time period of the show is “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm.” Rosemary sings of her desire to be nothing by a housewife to Finch, even if he works long hours and ignores her. But as she sang that song, I almost wanted to go back in time and be that housewife.

When Finch befriends J.B. Biggley, president of the company, he spends all of his time researching Biggley in an effort to make Biggley love him even more. Biggley, was played with great comedic timing by John Larroquette. One of my favorite comedic numbers in the show was “Grand Old Ivy,” that was Finch and Biggley singing about the college that Biggley had attended and that Finch had convinced Biggley he had gone to as well. It was probably my favorite number that was done by leads in the show.

I should also mention two numbers that were ensemble numbers. Both were done in the first act and were hilarious. The first, “Coffee Break,” was a hilarious homage to that illusive break that most people crave (although some might crave their smoke break even more). The second was a very sexist (but truly hilarious) number called “A Secretary Is Not a Toy.” It was basically 1960’s version of sexual harassment training with song, dance, and comical visual aids.

Overall, this show was very much worth seeing. It’s a comedy. A parody of the time and the “typical” office of the time. The coloring, the music, and the dancing were very much like Promises, Promises (which I saw last year). It’s not deep. It’s not serious. But it is seriously funny and lighthearted.

As for the criticisms I read about Mr. Radcliffe, they were, in my opinion, not valid. He did a good job. Is he the most talented person to ever grace the stage? Probably not. But he was good. The stories I read about all the extra time and effort he put into the show seem to be true and they paid off. I enjoyed seeing him on stage. And he has a killer American accent.

Should you go see it? If you’re looking for a fun way to kill a few hours (and a lot of money), I say do it. You’ll leave smiling.

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