[Click any photo to enlarge. All photos by Os Galindo]
Ever since its opening on The Great White Way more than half a century ago in 1961, composer Frank Loesser’s witty musical satire on the corporate world of big business has been putting smiles on audience faces around the world. With a clever book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock & Willie Gilbert, and the lengthy title of HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, the show succeeds in countless ways in this latest edition currently being presented by Theatre Under the Stars in the Sarofim Hall of Houston’s Hobby Center. I had the pleasure of attending with a friend who had worked many years for Chevron Corporation here in town. It amused me that she felt many of the delightfully silly characters and comically absurd situations that make this satirical show such fun, actually reminded her of real people and events from her experience with that noted firm.
Beautifully directed (and choreographed) by Dan Knechtges, there is a deliciously eye-popping overall look to the production, with its colorful and creative scenic design from Tom Sturge & David Sumner. The visual artistry seems to tip its hat to the Cubist art movement led by such painters as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in the early 2Ist century. The three-dimensionally layered proscenium is accented by the effective neon lighting designs of Steven Young, and vividly colorful costumes add to the glow (Designer, Rose Pederson). To top it off, musical director, Jeff Rizzo, smoothly guides the wonderful orchestra’s performance of the cheerful score. All of this serves to introduce us to The World Wide Wicket Company, where an ambitious young window washer named J. Pierpont Finch (Chris Dwan) is using every spare moment to read chapters in his little book titled (you guessed it), “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
The boyishly handsome Mr. Dwan has a devilish charm as Finch connives his way to success through various adventures and misadventures while swiftly climbing toward the top of the corporate ladder. Along the way he successfully cozies up to such important company executives as the President, J.B. Biggley (Stuart Marland), the personnel manager, Mr. Bratt (Arnie Burton), and the head of the company mailroom, Mr. Twimble, comically portrayed by Kevin Loomis (who also doubles as company CEO, Wally Womper, during Act Two). Loomis brings great fun to the catchy song, “The Company Way,” as Twimble amusingly educates young Finch on how to have a long and successful career with the firm.
Complicating matters is Mr. Biggley’s lazy, good-for-nothing nephew, Bud Frump (Joshua Morgan), who schemes to prevent Finch from ever advancing in the company at his expense.
Talented Ryann Redmond plays Rosemary’s friend and fellow secretary, Smitty. During the lively singing and dancing of the “Coffee Break” number, she and Mr. Morgan explode with vocal excitement in the frenzied office panic surrounding an unexpectedly empty coffee urn.
And speaking of explosions, Allyson Kaye Daniel lights up the stage as Executive Secretary, Miss Jones, during the full-cast showstopper, “Brotherhood of Man.” With her powerhouse voice, this talented gal must have anchored many a gospel choir in her time. Wow!
The romantic elements of the show come nicely into focus when Finch meets a lovely company secretary named Rosemary (Ashley Blanchet), who dreams of marrying Finch and having a happy life in the suburbs. The very pretty Miss Blanchet has an elegantly silken voice for winning numbers like, “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm,” and the tender, “I Believe in You.” In fact, it is worth mentioning that this entire cast demonstrates exceptional vocal talent, and that includes the very fine ensemble performances by the secretaries, executives and office staff in splashy numbers like, “A Secretary is Not a Toy,” “Paris Original,” and a Pirate Dance titled “The Yo Ho Ho,” performed as part of the hilarious and company-promoting game show that Finch brainstorms to endear himself to company executives. And speaking of the executives, don’t miss the cleverly staged washroom number, “I Believe in You,” complete with individual sinks and mirrors.
Of course what would a Broadway show be without a bit of sassy sex? That is amply provided by attractive Felicia Finley, in the role of Hedy LaRue, Mr. Biggley’s full-figured and empty-headed secretary, and secret mistress. Don’t miss their cheerful duet, “Love From a Heart of Gold,” looking a bit like an exaggerated old silent movie scene. Hedy could be aptly declared a “bombshell,” and don’t think the boys in the office haven’t noticed. There’s plenty more to notice in this fun-filled production. Why not pick up a ticket and see for yourself?
HOW TO SUCCEED… continues through November 6th at Houston’s Hobby Center main stage with performances Wednesday, Thursday, & Sunday at 7:30 pm, Friday & Saturday evenings at 8pm, and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. For tickets visit the website at www.TUTS.com, or call (713) 558-8887 locally, and (888) 558-3882 (outside of Houston).