'How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying'
I am often asked why they don’t create musicals like the good old days? The answer is fairly easy- the people who wrote the music, lyrics and stories are no longer here to create the lovely musicals that have an audience humming and dancing as they exit the theater. Yes, in the “good old days”, before the world became sophisticated via the Internet, we went to the theater to escape from the reality of life and to have a good time. Let’s go back to those thrilling days of yesteryear (the 1960’s/ which by the way were my golden days during college) as Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire puts on its stage the Tony Award winning “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” based on the book by Shepherd Mead with a book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert and Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser ( think “Guys and Dolls and you know just how great the songs are).
Smoothly directed by Don Stephenson, this stirring and funny musical, which normally relies on a massive set, being in the round, has very little in the way of scenery. Yes, there is the window washer utility lift and a few desks used to create the office and some cleverly designed units (Thomas M. Ryan surely knows his limitations on this stage) and some solid dance numbers choreographed by Melissa Zaremba. As always the musical direction is by Ryan T. Nelson and the orchestra is conducted by Patti Garwood. The lighting by Jesse Klug is flawless, the sound by Robert E. Gilmartin perfect and the properties by Sally Weiss as solid as one can expect. The costumes, as always. are based on the original 1960’s Broadway production by Catherine Zuber, and the Marriott staff of seamstresses has done a remarkable job of duplicating each and every one of them.
This is a show that I am very familiar with having been in several productions, the last one in Buffalo Grove where I took on the role of J.B. Biggley and watching Terry Hamilton bring a different flavor to the role was a truly wondrous sight. Hamilton is now known for his musical prowess, but since he has spread his wings, he has shown that he is up to the task! The story is about a young man, J. Pierrpont Finch (Ari Butler is amazing in this role) who with the help of his book (the title of the show) is planning to rise to the top of the corporate world by trickery and deceit). He falls into a company, the World Wide Wicket Company ( we never learn what a wicket is/or do we care) where Biggley rules the roost. It is the characters, in particular the male characters (after all this is the 60’s) that cover the stereo-types many of us remember. Younger audience members may not understand some of the nuances of the times. (there was NO Internet/Google or social media).
“Finch is assisted up the corporate ladder by Rosemary Pilkington (the lovely Jessica Naimy, who you will fall in love with) who finds him her perfect match. The other members of the secretarial pool feel that she is their “Cinderella finding the Prince (“Cinderella Darling”). The head secretary is Smitty (deliciously played by Marya Grandy) and the highest ranking secretary, Miss Jones is played to sheer perfection by Chicago favorite Felicia Fields, who gets the entire cast and audience rocking during her portion of “Brotherhood of Man”. During Finch’s rise to the top, he steps over Biggley’s nerdy nephew Bud Frump ( notice the satire in the writing) who is played by Alex Goodrich. Goodrich is one of the finest comedic actors in this area. He can sing, dance and handles comedy with the best. He certainly has taken on this role and made it his own!
One of the problems with this show is that people doing it tend to imitate the original actors, Robert Morse, Rudy Vallee, Charles Nelson Reilly (movie version) and I am thankful that Stephenson took the better road. Each actor developed the character as they saw him or her and that makes for a special performance for the audience, familiar or first-timers. One of the other notable characters are Biggley’s girlfriend, Hedy La Rue (a dynamite portrayal by Angela Ingersoll) who steals several scenes just by walking on the stage-WOW!!! Perfect casting! Another super job was Neil Friedman as Mr. Gatch (and a policeman in the second act),Derek Hasenstab as Mr. Twimble (the head of the mailroom) and later as Wally Womper (chairman of the board), and an incredible Mr. Bratt as played by Jason Grimm, a true gem!
The ensemble makes this show work, so hats off to: Richard Strimer, Paris Alexander Nesbitt, Andrew Malone, Alejamdro Fonseca, Ericka Mac, Erica A Lewis, Laura Savage, Brandon Springman, Kristina Larson, Alexandra Palkovic, Allison and last but not least, Jeff Pierpoint! The voice of the book is Emily Loesser ( a familiar name doing a familiar play). This is a solid production that shows just how powerful the good old musicals were. No one walked out of the theater with less than a smile on their face- even after 2 hours and forty-five minutes (there is a 15 minute intermission). This is one to put on your MUST SEE list. Again this is an all-star cast headed by an enormous Ari Butler as “Finch”. Do not miss this one!