Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Theater review: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at Granville Arts Center in Garland
A terrific, vibrant show that continues Garland Summer Musicals’ reputation for putting on lavish live theatre.
Everyone knows that the economy sucks right now, and getting a job is impossible for most people. If only there was the perfect guide to help guarantee all of us an interview, and a job life would be a lot simpler. How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (presented by Garland Summer Musicals at Granville Arts Center through July 29) explores this idea of magically finding all the answers you need to climb up the business ladder with minute effort.
How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying is a delightful satire that has been entertaining audiences since the Sixties. Based on Shepherd Mead’s 1952 best seller, the musical explores the life of a man that goes from a window washer to the chairman of a phenomenal company called “World Wide Wicket Company, Inc.”
The musical opens with J. Pierrepont Finch on the job washing windows and dreaming of working inside of the building instead of hundreds of feet in the air outside of it. Finch has managed to find a booklet that gives him a detailed description on how to achieve a reputable career starting from the mail room to working along side with the CEO.
Finch follows the manual step by step, but runs into some obstacles alongside his journey to reach the top. Finch comes across the boss’ nephew Bud who is trying to get him fired, a secretary named Rosemary that instantly falls in love with him once she sees him, and Hedy the boss’ ditzy “friend.”
The musical masters making fun of the business world. There are different comedic moments about the importance of secretaries, coffee, and title at work. Since I work at an acceptable company, the musical exposes the truth while exaggerating it for the stage. It is a cleverly written musical that will have audience members laughing from beginning to end.
Carl DeForrest Hendin does an extraordinary job as J. Pierrepont Finch. Hendin is visually captivating, and has a beautiful pure tone sound to his voice. Hendin has a lot of energy and gives the character many different levels to keep the humor going. Hendin carries the show, and is the key factor of why the show is success.
Erica Harte plays the lovely secretary Rosemary that eventually wins Finch’s heart. Harte gives a great delivery of the character. The character does not come off whiney or needy, but a woman desperate to fall in love. Harte has a very strong voice, and shows off her moves in “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm.”
James Williams plays the hot shot CEO of World Wide Wickets J. B. Biggley. Williams is very comical and knows how to deliver jokes. The only thing I wish Williams would have given his character was a bigger contrast between the relationships he has as CEO, and in his personal relationships.
Daniel Saroni plays the tattletale nephew Bud Frump. Saroni puts everything he has into this character, and is very believable. Saroni has a great nasal effect to his voice, and exaggerates his movement to make his nerdy character even more believable.
The character Smitty is being played by the delightful Stephanie Felton. Felton has great energy on stage, and reacts well to action going on around her. Felton is not only a great singer, but also a dancer and steals the spotlight during the song “Coffee Break.”
Hayley Ewerz portrays the curvy blonde secretary Hedy. Ewerz makes a great vocal choice for her character, and gives just the right amount of seduction and naïve attitude to her character. Ewerz is very funny, and entertaining.
The entire ensemble is very talented. The secretaries and office men perform just as well as the leads. Every single ensemble member has a visible character, and every single one of them enhances the show. I do not know what impresses me more from this highly talented ensemble: the acting, choreography, or singing.
One thing that really bothers me during musicals is meaningless choreography. Not here! The choreography created by Kelly McCain is just the opposite. McCain gives all the actors fun challenging movement that doesn’t repeat itself. All of the actors seem to be enjoying themselves, and the movement matches the tone and tempo of the show. The movement was consistent and two numbers that rise above the rest are “Coffee Break,” and “Brotherhood of Man.”
The direction by Buff Shurr is very visually captivating, and developed strong characters. Shurr selected a great cast and uses all of the talents each actor had to offer. The blocking was easy to look at and not distracting since Shurr uses the entire stage and finds different formations within his staging and blocking for the actors to create.
Mark Mullino leads the company as the musical director and conductor. The orchestra consists of 13 people, and is in unison through the entire show. No instrument can be heard over the rest. Mullino keeps a steady tempo for the actors to follow, and conducts some entertaining jazz numbers.
I was really fascinated with the set design by Kelly Cox. The color scheme works really well for each different scene, and the set pieces are easy to transition. The design is very modern and abstract, and Cox even creates the effect of real elevator doors in the office lobby. Scene changes are very fluid and quick, keeping the consistent pace of the show.
Susan A. White, Lynn Mauldin, Michael Robinson and Suzi Shankle all do an outstanding job with the lights (White), props (Mauldin), and costumes (Robinson and Shankle). White has the entire cast visible with light during the show. My favorite lighting choice is when White puts a blue spot light on Finch whenever he has a side to the audience. Mauldin does a wonderful job with the cast making sure that they all have different office supplies, and telephones for the period of the show.
The costumes by Robinson and Shankle are the most flattering costumes I have ever seen. Every single actor looks great in what they are wearing. The clothes are never too baggy, too tight, or a hideous color. Robinson and Shankle know how to make actors looks great on stage.
I have hardly any negative criticism for GSM’s version of How to Succeed. There are only a few minor moments that I feel that some of the actors could have given stronger acting choices for their characterizations. Other than that, the show is great and I would even go and see it again.
How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying is a terrific, vibrant show that continues Garland Summer Musicals’ reputation for putting on lavish live theatre. Whether you work in the business world or not come take a break and join the laughter.
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