ELM GROVE - Frank
Loesser’s musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” made
its appearance on Broadway in 1961 and since then has been made into a movie and
revived several times as recently as 2011.
Its staying power is
probably attributed to its satiric bite in its potshots directed toward the
corporate world, and though its attitude toward women is a bit dated, the fraud,
the expectation of conformity, the wheeling and dealing for position, the
treatment of secretaries, the gossip - they all still ring true. The romantic
subplots also reveal that ambition and love seldom mix, and some of the
less-flattering qualities of men and women are all too evident here.
The story begins with a
narrator quoting from his how-to book directing young men toward success in the
business world. A young window washer named J. Pierrepont Finch believes
everything the book advises and starts on his climb up the ladder. He is as
naive as he is ruthless and ambitious, and he knows how to schmooze. Although
the exuberant Jake Konrath fits the role nicely in many ways, he has some pitch
problems in the singing department.
His counterpart, the
boss’s nephew Bud Frump, adeptly characterized by Mark Neufang, is also
ambitious but seems forever doomed to the mailroom. Neufang amuses us with his
mannerisms and his ever-changing facial expressions. Their boss, J. B. Biggley,
typifies the self-impressed executive, who huffs and puffs a lot without really
accomplishing much. David Scott captures his quirks nicely.
Several of the female roles
are well-handled, especially that of the vampish Hedy LaRue, impressively
rendered by Samantha Paige. Katie Katschke, who plays Rosemary, has a lovely
voice; and Rhonda Huckstorf, who plays Smitty, has a good dose of energy and
spunk. I also liked Teresa Drew as the fearsome but kind Miss Jones. She turns
out to be the most likable and most competent woman in the bunch.
The choreography by Reginald
Kurschner is outstanding. The washroom, mailroom scenes and the pirate dance are
especially well done. The male ensemble of singers and dancers is quite
compelling. A.J. Simon’s set design lends itself to a no-nonsense atmosphere
(in contrast to all the nonsense going on) and to quick changes, which are
skillfully made without much interruption of the action.
Donna Kummer directs the
live orchestra from behind a scrim upstage with her usual precision and
musicality. Though “I Believe in You” is the only tune that has a life
outside the show, there are several other memorable numbers including “Coffee
Break,” “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm,” “Old Ivy,” Love from a Heart
of Gold” and “The Brotherhood of Man.”
The production is directed
by the creative and competent L. Thomas Lueck.