Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

A review of Broadway's latest smash revival.
By Alex Nagorski


To be honest, I was kind of nervous going into seeing the new Broadway revival of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. I tend to not really be a fan of … actually, let’s not sugarcoat … I tend to despise old musicals. I usually find them annoying and overly campy. More often that not, that old Broadway glitz and glam of showtunes and jazz hands makes me want to crawl out of my skin and poke my eyes out. Plus I tend to get bored during happy things. I’ve never had more suicidal thoughts than when sitting through shows like The Music Man, Annie Get Your Gun, or 42nd Street. I know, I know, I’m a terrible homo. Whatever.

So when I heard that How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying was a revival of a musical comedy that was half a century old, I was very skeptical about what I was going to see. But damn, was I wrong to be.
  
The entire production was incredible. From the beautiful, expansive-yet-intricate set to the multi-colored mod Mad Men on-stage inspired costumes and hair, every detail of this show just clicked. The choreography (although far more contemporary than the period the show is set in) was remarkable and exciting. Kudos to the incredibly talented dancers who pull that off every night. Numbers like “Grand Old Ivy” can only be described as fun, fun, fun, fun (Copyright Rebecca Black 2011). If that were me dancing up there, I’d be laying in bed complaining about sore thighs, reaching for my asthma inhaler and hiring a body double … like Natalie Portman may or may not have done in Black Swan
 
Daniel Radcliffe Daniel Radcliffe of Equus peen-revealing fame (oh, and I guess those little movies he made – something about wizards, a nose-less Ralph Fiennes, and the Chosen One?) shines as J. Pierrepont Finch, the most eager beaver in the whole dam. The story follows Finch as he climbs up the corporate ladder from window washer to junior executive to Vice President, etc. etc. by following the advice from a self-help book (narrated by CNN’s dreamy silver fox himself, Anderson Cooper) from which the show gets its title.

What works best for Radcliffe is his impeccable comedic timing. His discreet facial expressions give the audience such a clear insight into Finch’s brain, allowing us to know exactly what he’s thinking when presenting the fa├žade of the innocent and overworked corporate slave to his bosses. The moments when D-Radz breaks the fourth wall and knowingly glances over at the audience, smiling with his eyes well enough to even make Tyra jealous, are pure comedic gold.

Ellen Harvey is perfectly cast as Miss Jones, the cynical and zinger-delivering secretary to the five-time Emmy Award winning actor John Larroquette’s hysterically sensitive J.B. Biggley. Rose Hemingway is adorable with truly impressive pipes as Finch’s love interest, Rosemary Pillkington. Christopher J. Hanke is sensational as Bud Frump, the villain who just can't seem to cut the umbilical chord to his mama quite yet. But it’s Tammy Blanchard as the Fran Drescher-esque Hedy La Rue, the token slutty dumb girl with a New York accent thicker than the crust at Artichoke Pizza, who steals the show. The delivery of every word was spot-on; making every other sentence she uttered literally cause uproars of laughter from the audience.

It is not difficult to see why this show was the recipient of the Pulitzer as well as the “Best Musical” Tony Award upon its initial release in 1961. Songs like “A Secretary Is Not A Toy” and “Coffee Break” had the audience in stitches while the penultimate number, “Brotherhood of Men” was musical theater at its very finest. And what’s amazing is that although this is a period piece, director Rob Ashford (Promises, Promises) was able to make the music – and actually, the overall production – feel culturally relevant and applicable to contemporary times.

So if someone like me, who's soul is one of Voldermort's horcruxes, was able to crack not one, but multiple smiles during this show, you can guarantee that this is a musical worth attending. How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying is a real triumph. I couldn’t recommend it any higher than if I were a window washer myself.

Originally published on Crazytown Blog