Posted by David
Resisting any and all temptation to invoke metaphors that involve magic or sorcery, I will simply say that the new revival of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying starring Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter fame, for those who live under a rock), is pure, blissful entertainment from start to finish.
Radcliffe, who made his Broadway debut in Equus in 2008, is back on the boards again. Although this time, instead of playing a terribly disturbed young man in a mental institution, he now plays a terribly ambitious man in a corporate institution. And he sings! And dances! He is joined by veteran television actor John Larroquette and a cast brimming with talent and enthusiasm in a candy-colored production that nearly blows the roof off the Al Hirschfeld Theater on 46th Street.
Confession: I did not see the original 1961 production (I'm not THAT old, thankyouverymuch) nor did I see the revival with Matthew Broderick in 1995. I did appear in a pretty darn good high school production in 1983, however. But that's neither here nor there.
The current revival could be accused of trying to coast on the wattage of stars like Radcliffe and Larroquette were it not for the fact that Radcliffe charms the audiences right out of their seats. Not only is he giving 110% of himself on the stage, he appears to be having the time of his life as J. Pierpont Finch, the ambitious corporate ladder climber hell-bent on the American Dream. Larroquette is equally charming and garrulous as the corporation head, J.B. Biggley. Together, with the help of a ridiculously talented ensemble, the pair of them provided at least two show-stopping numbers the night I attended.
But these marquee names are not all that is grand about this production. As Finch's love interest, Rosemary, Rose Hemingway is all sweetness with just a hint of tang, and a glorious soprano and subtle conniving nature of her own that matches her well with her scheming paramour. As Finch's nemesis, the weasily Bud Frump, Christopher Hanke is delightfully mean-spirited and sulky. Shall I go on? Mary Faber as Rosemary's gal pal Smitty is playfully acerbic, Ellen Harvey as Biggley's secretary Miss Jones is gloriously intimidating, Tammy Blanchard as Biggley's mistress Hedy La Rue is the perfect synthesis of ditzy and vampish, Rob Bartlett shines in two contrasting roles as Twimble and Wally Whomper, and Michael Park is pitch-perfect as the spineless "yes" man Bratt.
Did I say how fantastic the ensemble is? Yes I did. But let me say it again. The ensemble is fantastic, not just because they sing and dance up a storm, but because they have all been guided in creating specific characters for themselves which allow them to be much more than human wallpaper. Yes, Radcliffe and Larroquette lead show-stopping numbers, but they are powered by this terrific ensemble.
But let's return briefly to Mr. Radcliffe. I'll be frank and say that he does not have the voice of, say, Cheyenne Jackson. But he sings convincingly and confidently and, as far as dancing goes, the kid works his ass off and makes it look natural. Particularly in the "Brotherhood of Man" finale, he stays front and center and hoofs it with the rest of the cast like he was born to do it. I was blown away. Hats off to director and choreographer Rob Ashford who has forged this company into a force of nature that put a smile on my face from start to finish.
The production design was also brilliant. The multi-tiered set by Derek McLane evoked not just the mod 60's of the time period, but also the corporate beehive that houses these mindless drones. Lighting by Howell Binkley worked seemlessly with the set and also provided punches of humor. The costumes by Catherine Zuber neatly laid out the corporate hierarchy. Sound design by Jon Weston was well balanced and also provided one of the evenings many delights: Anderson Cooper as the voice of the "book."
There is not much else to say other than that I, who often sigh resignedly when I hear about yet another revival coming to Broadway, was thoroughly enchanted by this production. Daniel Radcliffe, welcome back to Broadway. I hope you stay for a good long time.