HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING
Book By Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert
Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
MainStage Irving-Las Colinas
Director - Michael Serrecchia
Choreographer - Megan Kelly Bates
Musical Director - Scott A. Eckert
Stage Manager - Stacy Street
Set Designer - Judd Vermillion
Lighting Designer - Sam Nance
Costume Designer - Michael Robinson
Props Designer - Lois Bair, Dawn Blasingame, Jill Stephens
Sound Designer - Robin Stephens
J. Pierrepont Finch - Max Swarner
Rosemary - Morgan Mabry Mason
Bud Frump - Peter DiCesare
J.B.Biggley - Jerry Crow
Bratt - Robert Banks
Gatch-Keith J. Warren
Hedy La Rue - Alexis Nabors
Miss Jones - Cathy Pritchett
Smitty - Stephanie Felton
Twimble - Francis Hank Henry
Womper - Tom Moore
Ashlie Kirkpatrick, Scott Taylor, Bennie Adkins, Jr.,
Corey Whaley, Travis Ponikiewski, Ian Moore, Art Kedzierski,
Diane Powell, Dominique Brinkley, Erin Elliott, Sahara
Glasener-Boles, Stephanie Butler
Piano-Conductor - Scott A Eckert
Woodwinds -Paul Dutka, Chad Ostermiller, Drew Zeremba
Trumpet - Adam Miller
Trombone - Jason Hausback
Bass - Philip Friend
Drums - Alan Pollard
Reviewed Performance 7/31/2011
Reviewed by Clyde Berry, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is an infrequently done show that has received a great deal of attention lately due to the revival on Broadway starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter, and Equus fame. The story concerns an energetic young man who climbs up the corporate ladder by schmoozing and finagling. Think of it as a "Secret of My Success" for the 60's before the liberation of the "9 to 5" ladies.
An essential part of the story is the social satire and commentary of gender roles in the workplace, and in that sense, only gets a cursory treatment in this production. Director Michael Serrecchia focuses on the romantic story which, while entertaining, leaves lots of potential for a richer story told.
While the se*ism is on stage it is only in scenes where it is required, and then it is so forced it is uncomfortable instead of comic. Characters also execute some sexist moves unevenly across the cast, looking uncomfortable. With a piece like this the entire production needs to commit to the story told and issues portrayed, and throughout, not just in selected songs and scenes that advance the plot. While the larger arc of the show is weak, individual numbers are fun, and the talented cast is clearly having fun.
In one sense each character in the piece is doing the same thing, trying to climb the ladder of success.
Window washer Finch (Max Swarner) uses his book of shortcuts, secretary Rosemary (Morgan Mabry Mason) wants to marry an executive, vampy Hedy La Rue (Alex Nabors) with a sugar daddy, Bud Frump (Peter DiCesare) through family connections, etc. Each character is essentially on the same journey yet the audience sympathizes with Finch. Why is his journey the "acceptable" one while we laugh at the others? Again commentary is present, but undeveloped.
As Finch, Max Swarner continues to flex his repertory and build roles growing into an ever stronger song and dance man. Finch is a good role for him, and he is well suited to the smarmy looks, innocent thoughts of the character (if that's how he is seen) and genial nature. His dancing is strong as well. Swarner's best number is "I Believe in You" which sums up Finch's ambition as he gives himself a pep talk before a big presentation. This is the Finch that should be seen the whole show.
Rosemary, Finch's love interest, is aggressively played by Morgan Mabry Mason. Her take on the part is interesting as she pursues Finch during and in spite of his ambition. She has a bright voice and keeps Rosemary from becoming a passive character. In fact, she chases Finch as much as he chases his next ascent on the ladder. Mason balances energy well with Swarner, and they are a believable couple.
Peter DiCesare's Bud Frump is more whiney than the blackmailing type, an interesting choice. DiCesare's vocals are strong and ring well. He is able to sell Frumps awkwardly written tags onto the ends of songs. Frump is physically frumpy as well, slouching and slinking appropriately.
Alexis Nabors plays Hedy La Rue strictly peroxide, and is staged for maximum vamp. Nabors gives a great effort and is consistent in her characterization, often picking up scenes when a partner drops lines. It would be nice to see Nabors use Hedy's smart side, the one that went to business school and is trying to impress with her vocabulary and "manners" to round out the role.
Stealing scenes are Cathy Pritchett as Miss Jones, and Stephanie Felton as Smitty. Both ladies have been with the company a long time; Miss Jones the unmarried and de-sexed token woman exec ? the only woman who sings in "Brotherhood of Man". She's the future the women want to avoid. Pritchett does deadpan delivery well, unfazed by Finch's blatant flattery, but helpful nonetheless. Pritchett is an excellent foil to the male executives portrayed on stage. Felton fills matchmaker Smitty with lots of heart. "Been a Long Day" showcases her acting and singing skills (which are of note) as Smitty pulls strings to put the young couple together.
Filling out the lead executive roles are Jerry Crow as J.B. Biggley, Francis "Hank" Henry as Twimble, the retiree, and Tom Moore in a brief appearance as Wally Womper. Crow plays the Biggley as a bumbler, controlled by external forces yet still intimidating in the board room. "Grand Old Ivy" showcases his comedic timing and dancing well. Henry solidly delivers "Company Way" to advise Finch how to keep his nose down. Lastly, Moore possesses the presence needed to intimidate all and wrap up the plot. Moore also has a strong set of pipes and blasts a mighty sound, appropriate for the top dog.
The ensemble is strong, with everyone playing multiple secretaries, cleaning crew, mailroom boys, hospitality crew, general executives, etc. Standouts include Keith J. Warren in a thankless turn as Gatch, Scott Taylor as an evil Chipmunk, and Ashlie Kirkpatrick as a sassy Miss Krumholz.
Judd Vermillion has created a set created out of a few wagons and a variation on periaktoi, three sided pieces that spin for new locations. With a wide assortment of interior locations this serves the production very well. Various furniture pieces float in and out, and the cast makes changes happen very smoothly and quickly keeping things moving along nicely for a (written) long first act. A few pieces of dressing would be helpful even if only a company logo on a wall here and there. However, things aren't as clear in the second act when the location changes to a TV studio. There is no set to speak of and it is unclear if the execs watching are in the studio or watching the broadcast somewhere else. Getting in and out of this scene was rough. The show begins and ends with a lovely perspective view of a skyscraper that splits to reveal the stage.
The lighting design is uneven mainly due to very poorly timed and executed follow spots. These lights pop on, slide across the stage and spend entire songs focusing on the person singing. Very distracting. While the stage is lit by many general washes, follow spots didn't come on to pick up key action when the levels get dim. Several times the lights dim for a visual gag that is often in the dark. Scene changes use gobo breakups.
Bringing the music to life is Music Director Scott A. Eckert who is the most successful part of the production elements. The music is fast, perky, energetic and well played. The singers are comfortable, clear and well prepared. Eckert also is "The Voice" of the book that Finch uses and he pops up from the pit to deliver smarmy advice as the show progresses.
The choreography for this show is basic but effective. It is likely Megan Kelly Bates has to alter her plans to accommodate the numbers in the ensemble and the dance experience of the cast. What they do, they do well. Several moments in the show have synchronized background movement which is a nice touch but these moments are few and could be expanded elsewhere. The curse of the television sequence again causes problems as far as the "production number" and what happens with the dance itself.
The production uses costumes rented from The Dallas Costume Shoppe. Unloved wigs abound and sometimes change color under the stage light to unnatural shades. "Paris Original" works well even if the gag is given away early. The men all wear dark suits except Finch. The ladies wear various pastels and attire that is period appropriate.
All in all, this cast is working very hard and it shows. With their energy and commitment, all of their trying will indeed be successful and the audience will enjoy a light and fun show.
How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying
ICT Mainstage,Irving Arts Center
Dupree Theater, 3333 North MacArthur Blvd., Irving, TX 75062
Through August 13th, 2011
Plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm.
Tickets are $17-$20 with a $2 discount for seniors and students with ID.
***There is a $5 Student Rush 5 minutes before curtain for any available seats.
You can purchase tickets by going to www.irvingtheatre.org or calling their Box Office at