Sunday, March 04, 2012

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

The musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was better than we had expected. GH picked the show for his nephew who was visiting New York this week. He had just graduated from college and is applying to do his PhD in Economics. Business and Economics are a world apart, of course, but the story about a young man on the make, we thought, would interest someone about to choose the course of his career.

The most wonderful aspect of this revival was the set. The gigantic silver frames slid together from the wings to form windows, out through which the cityscape of New York beckoned. The windows were also covered by panes of different colors at different times, forming a changing backdrop to match the mood of the scenes. The song-and-dance also took place on the different levels of similar-looking but much bigger frames. Designed by Derek McLane, the set was simple but ingenious. The lighting design was by Howell Binkley.

Nick Jonas was a very creditable J. Pierrepont Finch, the window-cleaner who rose to become the Chairman of the World Wide Wicket Company. His voice was sweet though not very strong, and his dancing energetic and joyful. The cast was uniformly good. Michael Park who substituted for Beau Bridges in the role of J.B. Biggley on Wednesday night had a fine sense of comic timing. Stephanie Rothenberg who played Finch's love Rosemary Pilkington sang very well. I particularly liked the fine-tuned performance of two supporting actors, Ellen Harvey who played Miss Jones, the secretary to Biggley, and Shannon Lewis who played Miss Krumholtz, Rosemary's less lucky colleague.

This production playing at the beautiful Al Hirschfeld Theatre is directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford. The music and lyrics are by Frank Loesser. The book, by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock & Willie Gilbert, is based on the book by Shepherd Mead. Despite its joyful and smart presentation, the story does not shake off its old-fashioned air. After all, truly ambitious youngsters are no longer trying to climb the corporate ladder; they are making and re-making corporations in their own image.

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