04 October 2010

My title may be obvious, but "HOW TO" Succeeds!

The last production of the 2010 season at the Goodspeed Opera House, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, does exactly what the Goodspeed does better than almost anybody: take a wonderfully smart (the book won the 1962 Pulitzer) and eminently singable musical, and with a great cast, sharp choreography, and clever staging, bring its audience to a different place (albeit not too distant from our own).

Ambition, envy, greed, lust, vanity, stupidity, and (although it's not a "mortal sin") mediocrity run rampant through World Wide Wickets, Inc., and the audience is more than pleased to be along for the ride as J. Pierrepont Finch starts at the bottom and "works" his way to the executive suite. 

The 1961 musical may be dated in some ways (although what's still that earning gap between men and women?), the songs by Frank Loesser are as witty and tuneful as ever: the title song, "Brotherhood of Man," "Happy to Keep to His Dinner Warm," "Paris Original," "A Secretary is Not a Toy," "Been a Long Day," "Grand Old Ivy" (perhaps the best fight song of a  non-existent university ever), and, of course, "I Believe in You" (undeniably the best love song ever sung by a character to himself!).

The cast, led by Brian Sears (Finch), Natalie Bradshaw (Pilkington), Ronn Carroll (Biggley), Nicolette Hart (LaRue), and Tom Deckman (Frump), is top notch -- especially Mr. Deckman's Frump whose performance should be studied by every serious acting student.  If ever a performer took the concept that "all acting is reacting," it is Mr. Deckman, who, even in the midst of the rousing choreography and ensemble singing of the climactic "Brotherhood," continued to convey all the envy and bewilderment that the boss's nephew must have been feeling as his plans come crashing down upon him.  (The Goodspeed always has many wonderful performances in each of its shows, including this one, but this season-ticket-holder  is hard-pressed to think of a single one better than Mr. Deckman's here.)

Greg Ganakas's direction, Michael O'Flaherty's musical direction (including kazoos at one point), and Kelli Barclay's choreography all sparkle, and to this reviewer there were no missteps.  (Well, okay, one small one...did Mr. Sears's speaking voice have to sound so much like Matthew Broderick's?)

The show runs through November 28th.  Get there before it closes.    

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