This past weekend, I saw How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying up in New York City. We caught the matinee performance since it was a quick up and back surprise day trip. The first sign that I was in for a treat should have been the around the block line just to GET INTO the theatre…everyone in that line had assigned seating…and yet…still we waited around the block…go figure. I think the names Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette had something to do with that…
The show is playing at the Al Hirschfeld theater, and if you are about 5 feet 10 inches tall, its gonna be a cozy, comfy, cramped, afternoon for you :). But, I quickly got over that once the overture music started :). I thought the seats at the Cort theater were cramped…this one takes the cake.
The show starts with Radcliffe being brought up from the orchestra pit as a window washer reading his “How to Succeed in Business without really trying” book. Anderson Cooper acted as the narrator. I was skeptical of his ability to fill the shoes of Walter Cronkite, but he brought that “modern youthful” edge I think the shows producers were going for.
The opening title number started off a bit shakey, it certainly isn’t the strongest number of the whole show, but do NOT let that be your lasting impression. Radcliffe gets into his singing and acting groove after this number and the show takes off into a wildly entertaining and hilarious event.
My hands down favorite scene/song from the entire show was the big production of “Grand Old Ivy”. The manipulative J. Pierrponte Finch and J.B. Biggley get together to sing “their” alma mater fight song against their rivals the Chipmunks. The choreography and the production of this song is worth the growing ticket price for the entire show. Seeing Radcliffe and Larroquette rip like groundhogs and be thrown around in “slow motion” football tackles had everyone on the edge of their seats. If they are asked to perform at the Tony’s this year, I hope they pick this number just so I can see it again!
The remainder of the cast is not to be overlooked. Bud Frump played by Christopher Hanke, makes the envious and bratty nephew of Mr. Bigley seem lovable and endearing. Rose Hemingway’s portrayal of Rosemary, Finch’s love interest, doesn’t bring the comedic integrity that Meghan Mullally did back in the nineties revival, but she is sweet, ambitious, and lovable as she chases Finch around for the entire show. Tammy Blanchard, Emmy award winning and Tony nominated actress, brings some Jersey flare to Miss Hedy La Rue, love mistress of J.B.Bigley.
If you’re wondering if Radcliffe has the ability to fill the shoes of those Finch’s who have come before him such as Matthew Broderick and Morse, just think of him as wearing Nike’s versus Ked’s. Radcliffe has a modernized and more youthful approach to Pierrpont. He captures all of the characteristics of Finch that allow him to be the lovable, manipulative, and ambitious young executive looking to climb to the top of the corporate ladder without really having to do anything. He hits all of the iconic songs such as ” I believe in you”, ” Grand Old Ivy”, “Rosemary”, etc. He keeps up with the seasoned broadway dancers without missing a step. He keeps you rooting for Finch even through all of his manipulations. Will he be nominated for a Tony for this performance? Doubtful, but that’s not what matters when your laughing so hard your stomach hurts by the end of the show. His “American” accent at times is a bit forced… it could have been to fun to have a British Finch…it is a revival after all…
As far as being a revival, the major changes were made to the arrangement of songs. The opening number is no longer performed by the secretaries, but by Pierrpont Finch himself. The arrangement of a “Secretary is not a toy” is shifted from a song allowing for Bert Bott to have his solo moment, into an ensemble song. They reinserted “Cinderella Darling” which was left out of the 1996 revival. The ending of “Brotherhood of Men” is shifted back to the original composition for Mrs. Jones to belt out in falsetto vs. Lilias White’s full voice, skat rendition ( I prefer the White version).
The show is still in previews until March 27th, by then they should have all the kinks out about who is going to pick up what fallen piece of paper… 🙂
In total, this show was non-stop fun. If you are in New York and are looking for a show, head on over to the Al Hirschfeld theater, you will NOT be disappointed.