Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Take a story of a young man who climbs to a position of great power and the girl who loyally hangs on, eventually winning him and you have the storyline of the latest musical presented by the student run, Friar's Cell at Providence College. "How To Succeed in Business without Really Trying" is done as a concert production and is presented as a radio show where it succeeds brilliantly. It contains the right amount of expert student direction, musical direction and choreography without the cumbersome set changes associated with a 1960's musical.
Director, Joe Bonfiglio directs this show very well, making the most of all the shtick of the era and brings his expertise as a comic actor into accomplishing his goals. His insight into the humorous situations is right on the money and this show is another feather in this graduating senior's cap. Joe's concept as a radio play is complete with the on the air and applause signs and a spotlight on the old fashioned radio makes it seem like an actor in the show. (The voice is done by Joseph Pollaci) Musical director, Jackie Oswald, another senior, trains the 27 member cast into the harmonic triumph of sound they emit. The solo, duet, trios and chorus voices are a pleasure to listen to and each person gets their moment to stand out. Jackie, who has a lovely soprano voice, makes sure the singers and the 7 piece orchestra blend together without the vocalists being overpowered. Her assistant, Steve Rougas, accompanies the vocalists splendidly on the piano, making the entire combo sound great. Choreographer, Sandra Colavolpe provides the 60's dance moves for the numbers, with the ensemble dances in "Coffee Break", "A Secretary Is Not a Toy" and the "Brotherhood of Man" standing out. Other talented member of the tech staff include hard working stage manager, Peter Brodbeck who keeps the scenes flowing seamlessly, lighting designer Paul Larochelle who creates the quick scene changes with just the right kind of lighting and costume designer, Courtney Cullinan who makes the multitude of 1960's outfits, especially funny are the same dresses for the "Paris Original" song and the suspenders, red bow tie and nerdy outfit for Bud Frump are a hoot,too. Wonderful job by the student staff.
All the performers are as top notch as the tech crew. Jason Davis is excellent as J. Pierpont Finch. This leading man 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". Jason acts the part well, too. He 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. Jason is a talented leading man who will do well in future roles. Gianine Teti plays Finch's girlfriend, Rosemary, with the right kind of spunk and determination to show how she will capture the man of her dreams. She displays the character's longings in "Happy to Keep his Dinner Warm", her seducing him with her new dress in "Paris Original" and her final realization of their love with the music in the background in "Rosemary". Gianine has a beautiful voice and does a great job as the long suffering woman of the 60's. She and Jason have good chemistry together and it flows out into the audience, capturing them into total enjoyment of their performances.
Adding to the merriment of the evening are the 3 biggest scene stealers. They are Michael Propster as the boss, J.B. Biggley, David Quinn as the slimy, sneaky, Bud Frump and Megan Peters as the Betty Boop, dumb blonde, Hedy La Rue. Michael is hysterical as the constantly swearing, exasperated head of the company. He uses his face and voice to keep the laughter flowing. David is hilarious as the prat falling brat nephew who is always trying to get promoted by calling his mother to intervene. His manic performance keeps everyone in stitches and reminds you of a younger version of Paul Lynde. Megan uses her sexy moves and dumb blonde voice to capture the character perfectly. Her interactions with the men in the show are a joy to see. She and Michael have one of the prettiest duets in the show called "Love from a Heart of Gold" in which they do a funny dance to it. They also have a trio with David in "Been a Long Day" where their voices blend in gorgeous harmony with the chorus helping end the number with a big crescendo.
5 other supporting characters in the show are played by Tiff Toner as Smitty, Kevin Burke as Bratt, Amy Hayes as the elderly, Miss Jones, Troy Quinn as the elderly chairman of the board, Wally Womper and Jamie Harris as Twimble. Tiff plays Rosemary's best friend. She sings the lead in "Coffee Break" where she and David as Frump do a comical dance including a tango where it ends with him in her arms. What a hoot! She also sings in the trio with Jason and Gianine, "Been a Long Day" in perfect harmony. Kevin is high energy as the second in command, Mr. Bratt. He leads the chorus in "A Secretary is Not a Toy" and gives a very comic performance throughout. Amy and Troy play these older roles wonderfully. They both get a chance to show their stuff during "The Brotherhood of Man" with Troy doing sidekicks in the air while walking with a cane. Amy's hanging slip under her dress and her old age make up added to her acting ability to pull the role off. Jamie makes Twimble, the head of the mail room into a song and dance man in his song with Finch called "The Comapny Way". He and Jason sing it powerfully and do a soft shoe dance with canes during it.
The rest of these 17 talented students play the various secretaries and the male employees in the company. They include Laura Chandler, Kyle Pinto, Chris Wells, Shereef Ahmed, Christopher Severino with the dancers, Adrienne Larsen Silva, Mary Manning, Lauren Mueller, Pamela Neri, Kaitlin O'Connor, Elana Vasi and Katie Winn and the singing chorus, Gina Antoniou, Katie Grzyb, Jillian Holmes, Kate Mundy and Lauren Wholley. So for an evening of great entertainment done entirely by college students, catch "How to Succeed", it shows you what they have learned in their theatre classes and how well they have trained for a theatre career in the future.