Stage musicals have come from many sources: plays, films, plays based on films, films based on plays, novels, comic strips, and even the Bible: so why not a non-fiction, satirical ‘how to’ manual send-up?
Shepherd Mead’s 1952 big business satire was turned into the Broadway musical comedy How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying by writers Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert and composer/lyricist Frank Loesser in 1961, winning seven Tony awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle award and the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The title is essentially the plot line: a young office building window washer, J. Pierrepont Finch, rockets from the window ledge of World Wide Wickets into the company’s mail room to being a junior executive all in one day – his goal, to become Vice President of Advertising. All the trimmings of big business are here: office romance, power plays, nepotism, secretaries galore, pirates and, of course, the usual office singing and dancing!
There’s a lot to love about the show and about this production. Ben Stefanoff has tossed aside his usual musical director’s baton to pick up the directorial reins and present a fairly impressive debut. He manages to deliver the humour well, even getting laughs on some of the more obscure references and adding some nice original touches – one being a scene that traditionally takes place outside a lift now occurring inside. Stefanoff has wisely kept the production light, bright and fairly well paced. His sixties Pop Art office setting adds to the atmosphere wonderfully, as do his great period costumes, and Rodney Bates’ lighting design.
Musical director Emma Knights impresses once again with a great sounding band and producing clear, crisp vocals from the cast. First time choreographer Ali Walsh’s routines are stunning to look at, with a great Broadway feel to them, and the entire cast should be congratulated for how tight and tuned they are in performing them. “Brotherhood of Man” in particular, is worthy of an encore.
There are a couple of miscast roles, but definitely not Buddy Dawson as Finch. This young man is almost worth the price of admission alone. He is everything the role requires: energetic, likable, charming, hugely comedic, dances well and sings up a storm, especially in “I Believe In You”. As his love interest, Rosemary, Rachel Da Graca Costa is beautifully natural, has the nicest smile ever and connects with Dawson wonderfully. Chris Daniels also impresses as Bud Frump, especially with his very smooth dance moves.
Perhaps the most experienced actor on stage, Max Rayner (as JB Biggley) knows exactly when to under and overstate his role; Kristin Stefanoff is delightful as secretary Smitty; with Katherine Fielding making her presence felt as Miss Jones – especially with her ‘scatting’. As ‘twelve words per minute’ Hedy LaRue, Rachel Dow works well but comes across a little too intelligent, and her costumes don’t allow her to stand out from the other secretaries.
Michael Coumi as Personnel Manager, Mr Bratt leads the male contingent of the office well and is strong in both presence and voice. The rest of the cast add greatly to the energy, fun and talent making this a production worthy of water cooler conversation in any office.
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Venue: The Arts Theatre 53 Angas Street Adelaide
Season: 24th May – 1st June 2013
Duration: 2.5 hours including intermission
Tickets: Adult $30 Concession $25
Special Price Night: Wednesday 29th May – all tickets $25
Bookings: Phone: 8251 3926 or email the Marie Clark Musical Theatre company or visit their website for online bookings
Photo credit: Tim Allan Media