Theatre Mirror Reviews - "How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying"

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entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The first show of The Community Players 91st season is "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". The musical first opened on Broadway in October, 1961, ran 1,417 performances, won seven Tony Awards and the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The show is about J. Pierrepont Finch, a young window cleaner in New York City, who has a mind for advancement. A "Book Voice" tells him that everything he needs for success is contained with the book in his hand, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". He enters the World Wide Wicket Company searching for a job. The audience observes how he climbs up the ladder of success, using many people along the way, meets the girl of his dreams, has many adventures and lives happily ever after. Director Greg Geer infuses this show with high energy, music director Ron Procopio not only plays lead keyboards for the show but taught the cast the intricate score. The superb dance numbers by Lennie Machado are all terrific with "Coffee Break", "A Secretary is Not a Toy" and "The Brotherhood of Man" as standouts. Their expertise wins their hard working cast a well deserved standing ovation at the close of the show.

Greg does a splendid job directing the show from the blocking to the clever 1960's shtick of the era and brings his expertise as a comic actor into accomplishing his goals in obtaining the best from his performers. Channel 6 newscaster John DeLuca is the voice of the book that Finch hears during the show. Ron also leads an excellent eight piece orchestra and makes the cast sound wonderful in their solos, duets and group numbers. Lennie's dance numbers stop the show with their excellent execution by this talented cast. I loved the tap dance to the women's reprise of "How to Succeed", the Pirate dance with "Paris Original" underscore and the Ground Hog dance to "Old Ivy" is marvelous, too. Bravo to them on a job very well done.

Colin Whitney is terrific as J. Pierrpont Finch. He has a fantastic tenor voice which he uses in "How to Succeed", the duets, "The Company Way" and "Rosemary" and the choral numbers, "I Believe in You and "The Brotherhood of Man". Colin shows how Finch uses his charm and wits to get ahead in the company and also demonstrates his softer side when he finally falls for Rosemary. He captures the essence of this character with ease and delivers tongue twisting dialogue beautifully. I have been reviewing Colin since he played Friedrich in "Sound of Music" at Community Players and he has grown by leaps and bounds as an actor and vocalist, delivering a tour-de-force performance in this role. Sarah Pothier play Finch's girlfriend, Rosemary with the right kind of spunk and determination on how she will capture the man of her dreams. She has a fabulous soprano voice which she shows off in "Happy to Keep his Dinner Warm" where Rosemary longs for a relationship with Finch, in "Paris Original", tries to seduce him with her new dress and the final realization of love in "Rosemary" with music in the background as well as the poignant reprise of "I Believe in You". Sarah does a marvelous job as the long suffering woman of the 1960's. She and Colin have fantastic chemistry together and are terrific in all their dance numbers, too.

Adding to the merriment of the evening are the 3 biggest scene stealers. Bill Whitehead as the boss, JB Biggley, Kevin Broccoli as the slimy, sneaky, Bud Frump, and Ashley Arnold as the Betty Boop, dumb red head, Hedy La Rue. Bill is hysterical as the constantly swearing, exasperated head of the company. He uses his facial expressions and comical voice to keep the laughter flowing. Bill shows off his strong singing voice with Colin in "The Old Ivy" which stops the show. Kevin is hilarious as the brat nephew who is always trying to get promoted by calling his mother to intervene with JB. His manic performance keeps everyone in stitches and he reminds you of Paul Lynde. Kevin is also a terrific playwright. He shows off his voice in a trio with Bill and Ashley and the chorus called "Been a Long Day" where their voices blend in gorgeous harmony with the chorus finishing it with a big crescendo. He also has his own version of "Coffee Break" and "The Company Way". Ashley is a hoot as this airhead and uses her sexy moves and dumb blonde voice to capture the character perfectly. Her interactions with the male characters in the show are a joy to watch. Ashley and Bill have the prettiest duet in the show called "Love from a Heart of Gold". They do a comic dance to it. Ashley is a dynamo in this part.

Other comic performers include Mary Beth Kim as Miss Jones who sings the obligato in "Brotherhood of Man, Erika Pastel as Smitty who sings "Coffee Break" and "Paris Original" (she wears cat glasses as Smitty), Kevin Mischley as Bratt who sings "A Secretary is Not a Toy" with the chorus doing a robot and puppet type dance to it, and Ken McPherson as Twimble sings "The Company Way" and as Womper sings "Brotherhood of Man". I had fun playing Womper back in 1988. Kudos to the singing and dancing chorus of the show who do fabulous work.The 1960's costumes are by Laurea Osborne while the wonderful set is by Dan Fisher. Hard working stage manager Emily Varden and her topnotch crew keep the set pieces moving on and offstage splendidly. So for a topnotch rendition of this show be sure to catch The Community Players, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying".

"How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying" (7 - 23 October)
@ Jenks Auditorium, Division Street, PAWTUCKET RI

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