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How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Josh Grisetti gives a commanding performance in Reprise's mostly joyous revival of the classic Broadway musical. logo
John O'Hurley and Josh Grisetti in
How To Succeed In Business...
(© John Ganun)
The Pulitzer Prize Award-winning musical satire How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, now being presented by Reprise Theater Company, may be nearly 50 years old, but this impenetrably joyous tale still lights up the theater, thanks in large part to the work of a stellar cast.

Blessed by a hilarious book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, and a droll score by Frank Loesser -- all poking fun at office politicking, lechery, and that dangerous drug addiction to a hot smoking cup of coffee -- the show feels as timely as ever despite its 1960s milieu. Indeed, anyone who has ever worked at a company larger than two employees knows that the only way to excel is to blunder and blame those doing the actual hard work.

Josh Grisetti commands the show as the ambitious anti-hero, J. Pierrepont Finch. His slightly crooked stance hints at his devious nature, and his comic-tinged but lush singing voice turns "I Believe in You" into the showstopper it should be. He's both boy-next-door and the devil, and he makes you root for him despite his slimy practices.

As his romantic interest, Rosemary, Nicole Parker possesses a delightful mezzo soprano, and her big number, "Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm" displays the kind of comic timing that make her undeniably lovable. John O'Hurley plays company president J.B. Biggley as if he's in a piercingly serious drama, which makes for an amusing interpretation. Despite some flubbed lines, Vicki Lewis is undeniably funny as the wisecracking Smitty. Simon Helberg dives into the sniveling nature of Bud Frump, but he also brings an insecure pathos to the role that captures the character's vast sense of inferiority and loneliness.

As always, Ruth Williamson is a stitch even in a small role, and Larry Raben, Ray Willis, EE Bell, and Michael Kostroff's make fine contributions. Only Mellisa Fahn goes south as sexpot Hedy LaRue; she appears to have veered into her earlier role as Lina Limont in Singin' In The Rain, and displays a surprising lack of subtlety.

At times, director Marcia Milgrom Dodge paints her canvas with too broad strokes, turning satire into parody which dissipates some of the bite. On the positive side, she gives her actors some great bits, such as having Raben sport a milk of magnesia mustache before "Brotherhood of Man" or Helberg using his scooter and horn to punctuate his jokes.

Costume designer Kate Bergh picks snazzy suits for the gentlemen with pastel shirts and ties that are smashing; however the "Paris Original" red dress worn by all of the women for the end of act one is not flattering for most of them. Set designer Bradley Kaye goes to town with the period, and uses colors that complement the suits and dynamic shapes in a wild and wonderful way.

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