Forget the question
The 50th anniversary production of "How to Succeed in
Business Without Really Trying" is not only a splendid
hit revival with a
star-studded cast. It's also the most enjoyable Broadway
show in years. Produced by Broadway Across America,
which co-produced the recent well-received revival of
"Promises, Promises," "How to ..."
stars Daniel Radcliffe, as J. Pierrepont Finch, the
Machiavellian man in a hurry. And does he ever shine!
Radcliffe, as most moviegoers know, has played Harry
Potter ever since "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
Stone," the first Potter movie, 10 years ago. His final
bow in the blockbuster series will be in "Harry Potter
and the Deadly Hallow: Part 2," being released this
summer. "How to ..." It opened at the Al Hirschfield
Theatre March 27 and could well for a long, long time.
Yet Radcliffe needed a lot more than sorcey to work
his magic in
"How To ..."After all, he's has had not
just one, but two tough acts to follow. First, Robert
Morse in the original 1961 cast and Matthew Broderick
in the 1995 revival. And under Tony Award-winning
director/choreography Rob Ashford, Radcliffe, who spent
months perfecting the dance routines, fairly flies
through the air with the seeming greatest of ease.
He, as were his predecessors, is just the right man to
back-stabbing, ego-driven Finch. You could really hate
this kind of guy in real life. But Radcliffe plays him
with such wagging, smiling
innocence that we're actually rooting for him as he
circumnavigates the thorn-spiked corporate ladder -- his
own version of the
"Company Way," one of the show's many hit songs.
"How to ..." with music and lyrics by the late Frank
Loesser, is blessed by one of the finest scores in
Broadway musical history. It may not soar to the lyrical
emotional heights of a "Show Boat," a "Carousel" or more
recent Sondheim. But every song blends perfectly into
the satiric style of the book by Abe Burrows, Jack
This doesn't mean the score is wooden. Far from it. I
liked some of the quieter numbers such as "Happy to Keep
His Dinner Warm", "I Believe in You." And by the time
Finch starts singing
"Brotherhood of Man" the entire audience is on its feet
not physically. For this is also a musical that starts
slowly in an
almost low-key way with "Been a Long Day" and "Rosemary"
and ends with one of the biggest bangs on Broadway in
this or any day.
Rose Hemingway as Rosemary, who not so secretly pines
upward-clawing Finch, is as talented a singer as she is
Tammy Blanchard as sex pot Hedy LaRue, delivers laughs
as flawlessly as her beauty. John Larroquette as J.B.
Biggley, who may be best known as Assistant District
Attorney Dan Fielding on NBC's "Night Court," is both
commanding and loveable. Christopher J. Hanke as Bud
Frump, one of the executives Finch crawls over on his
way to the top, has some of the same zany impishness of
Charles Nelson Reilly, who originally played Frump -- on
Reilly's way to becoming a household TC name. Rob
Bartlett, in the duel role of Mr. Twimble/Wally Womper
reminded me of a cross between Nathan Lane and the late
Jackie Gleason. Like Gleason -- who I met when my
father, the late Broadway columnist Ward Morehouse, took
me backstage of a Broadway show to meet him -- is a
mountain of a man.
Michael Park as Bert Bratt, is as winning a leading man
as he is dextrous a dancer. Helen Harvey, as Miss Jones,
Faber, as Smitty, are wonderful additions to the zany
comedy. CNN star Anderson Cooper is heard but not seen
as the narrator of the book that Finch studies in his
breathless, charmingly dishonest hurry to the top.
By the way, I can see Anderson playing the role of Finch
himself if he
ever wants to take a much earned break from front page
news. Dancing might prove to be too daunting, however.
"How to Succeed ..." plays Tuesdays and Thursdays at
7pm, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday at 8pm, with
matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm and Sunday
at 3pm at the Al Hirschfield Theatre, 302 W. 45th
Street, just west of Eighth Ave.