The Marriott Theatre revival of the 1960s Broadway hit “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” based on the 1952 book by Shepherd Mead with book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert and Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser shows just how much things have changed since the 1960’s but in other ways remain the same.
Perhaps most disturbing is the hit song from the show, ‘I’d Be Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm’ (sung by the lovely Jessica Naimy)–a throwback to another era.
The sentiment of dreaming about keeping dinner warm for her man when he arrives home late at night whether from work or fooling around (remember this was the Mad Man era) is totally out of sync with today’s world where, more often than not, both husband and wife rush home from work to make dinner together with a little help from Blue Apron.
Yet on the other side of the equation, as much as things have changed since the ’60s, corporate wheelings and dealings still revolve around power plays mixed with a certain amount of cluelessness and doing things the ‘Company Way” be it the Google and Facebook way or the General Motors and IMB way.
And sexual attraction, both in and out of the office place, is still alive and well albeit played with different rules.
But I digress. The production, itself, has all the bells and whistles that audiences expect from Marriott Theatre productions which has the largest musical theatre subscriber base in the country–and for good reason.
They know what their audiences want and they know how to deliver it.
In some ways the decision to revive “How to…” was a brave one being the premise was a stretch even in the ’60s.
Of course, the question it asks is meant to be sartorial: “Can a window washer named J. Pierrepont Finch rise to the top of the corporate world with little more than an instruction book on ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’?”
The show has good bones.
It was a runaway hit in the ’60’s when it played at the 46th Street Theatre on Broadway from October 1961 to March 1964 running for 1,417 performances and winning seven Tony Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle award, and the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
To dismiss “How to…” as dated would be short-sighted. Is Lysistrata (411 B.C.) dated? Is Macbeth dated (1623)?
With this in mind, one should be able to sit back and enjoy the story set in its time and place–1950s America. True it is not politically correct for 2016–and also true, we don’t dress like that anymore.
Smoothly directed by Don Stephenson, (who interestingly is married to Loesser’s daughter), “How to….” gives us is a snapshot of those times.
The production features exceptional music under the direction of Ryan T. Nelson and the outstanding orchestra conducted by Patti Garwood; high energy dance numbers choreographed by Melissa Zaremba; period costumes (and wigs), based on the original 1960’s Broadway production by Catherine Zuber and many delightful over-the-top comedic interludes.
The well-chosen cast play their roles seamlessly. Audiences who may remember seeing Terry Hamilton, a TimeLine Associate Artist (J.B. Biggley) in his wonderful portrayal of Nixon at Timeline Theatre’s Frost/Nixon production a few years ago and his many other dramatic performances, will enjoy seeing him in a different type of role–singing, dancing and showing his formidable comedic chops in numbers including the hilarious “Grand Old Ivy” where he celebrates his college years as a groundhog with J. Pierrpont Finch (Ari Butler who adds significant insight into the role of Finch) playing it for all it’s worth.
Broadway actress Rosemary Pilkington (Jessica Naimy) making her Marriott debut is on target as she follows her plan for getting her man, Finch–bringing sensitivity and understanding to the role.
It’s hard not to appreciate and laugh at the antics of the one and only Hedy LaRue (Angela Ingersoll) girl friend of Biggley who gives it her all–and then some–strutting about the stage oozing sexuality.
Finch’s nemesis Biggley’s nephew, Bud Frump (Alex Goodrich) adds a comedic note with his devious attempts to stop the meteorite rise of Finch–while still managing to be a likeable loser.
Head secretary Smitty, hilariously portrayed by Marya Grandy, is a hoot.
Bringing the house to their feet in the “Brotherhood of Man” number, beloved actress Felicia Fields delivers an on-spot performance in her role as Miss Jones–the gatekeeper for her boss Biggley.
Derek Hasenstab pulls off his dual roles of Mr. Twimble from the mail room in his “Company Way” duet with Finch in Act I and as Mr. Womper of the boardroom in Act II.
Richard Strimer, Paris Alexander Nesbitt, Andrew Malone, Alejamdro Fonseca, Ericka Mac, Erica A Lewis, Laura Savage, Brandon Springman, Kristina Larson, Alexandra Palkovic, Allison and Jeff Pierpoint lead the talented ensemble keeping the audience smiling throughout the show with their powerful song and dance numbers.
Tickets and information
What: “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”
Where: Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, ten Marriott Drive (just south of Half Day Road/Route 22 and east of Milwaukee Avenue/Route 21)
Run: now through October 16th with performances as follows: Wednesdays 1 p.m and 8 p.m.; Thursdays 8 p.m.; Fridays 8 p.m.; Saturdays 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays 1 and 5 p.m.
Running time: 2 hours and 35 minutes
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Parking: free parking on the grounds or valet parking
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