Thursday, October 30, 2003
Photo: Lap of Luxury: J.B. Biggley, played by Bill Lindsay, gets a lapful from Hedy LaRue, played by Michele Colvin.
Sure, the witty skewering of the business climate that won How to Suceed in Business Without Really Trying the Pulitzer Prize in 1962 seems charmingly outdated now. No longer do we exclaim, "What?! There''s mismanagement at the top of companies?"
But dated or not, director Jim McLean has brought together a terrific cast of performers young and old, and has crafted a production that allows them to shine. Under his direction, each actor takes full possession of his role and brings it sparklingly to life. Perhaps the one area depicted in How to Succeed that has seen contemporary progress is the topic of office sexual politics. Nowadays equal opportunity harassment can be practiced by female executives, too.
In the central role of J. Pierrepont Finch, Evan Brashier reveals his qualities as a triple-threat with special vigor. Brashier is a wonderful dancer, flowing flawlessly from graceful, balletic leaps to goofy hops and slides. His voice is a delightful, expressive fit with Finch''s songs. Mostly, though, Brashier is a thoroughly likeable actor with impeccable comic timing. As he fights his way from mailroom clerk to top of the heap, there is not a moment we''re not pulling for him.
As Finch''s love interest Rosemary, Micah Lee Henderson is a terrific match. Both Henderson and her character come most alive during the musical numbers. Rosemary is an unenviable role to play: she is the quintessential ''50s wanna-be housewife--there is absolutely nothing complex about her. Yet Henderson manages to allow the audience to believe in Rosemary. More than that, we can even respect the strength of her conviction.
In this production, the actors in the secondary roles demand as much consideration and praise as the leads. Melissa Chin Parker, as Rosemary''s hard boiled friend Smitty, gives us the Joan Blondell of the office set. Chin Parker''s expressive performance of "Been a Long Day" is especially funny.
Grant McKee as one of the faithful office workers does a star-turn in the number "The Company Way" that is worth the ticket price all by itself. And Michele Colvin slinks and giggles with innocence and healthy sexuality as she seems to revel in playing the office siren Hedy LaRue.
Donna Federico does what she does best: belting out her numbers with raw abandon, and Ronald M. Livingston, as the boss''s nephew, proves he is a young actor whose talent continues to grow and mature.
The music directing team of Don Dally and Rebecca Hathaway Nelson has meshed together a very tight orchestra with singers in full confident possession of their numbers. The choreography by Susan Cable is energetic, exuberant and highly entertaining. The efficient, stunning and very witty set is designed by David Parker. Theodore Michael Dolas'' lighting design sometimes leaves the actors dimly lit, but serves well to illuminate mood and shifting locations. Costumes, hair and makeup by Rhonda Kirkpatrick-Griffith evoke the era of the early 1960s and add another twinkle of wit to the whole production.
If there is justice in the theater world, How to Succeed will soon be sold out; it''s a blue chip production.