Review: 'How to Succeed' clearly succeeds
The Champaign Urbana Theatre Company has kicked off off its 22nd Season with the musical satire, "How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying," now playing at the Parkland College Theatre.
This brilliant, multiple-Tony Award winner has enjoyed two successful revivals, one featuring Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullalley in 1995, and more recently, in celebration of the production's 50th anniversary, a run featuring Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette in 2011.
Based on a guidebook of the same name written in 1952 by Shepherd Mead, "How to Succeed" follows the meteoric career trajectory of the ambitious J. Pierrepont Finch, mild mannered window washer, who uses the teachings of the guidebook to move swiftly from the exterior scaffold to the top rung of the corporate ladder.
Finch, or rather "Ponty" to his friends, skillfully manipulates the entire staff of the World Wide Wickets Co. with a devilish charm, much to the chagrin of Bud Frump, the lackluster nephew of CEO J.B. Biggley, who had assumed his familial connections alone would guarantee his place at the top.
While climbing the ladder, Ponty, (in an impressive performance by Matthew Fear) catches the eye of secretary Rosemary Pilkington (Liz Martin), who plots — with the help and encouragement of her fellow stenographers — to get Ponty to walk down the aisle.
Under the direction of interim company manager Amy Stoch, this production, after only four weeks of rehearsal, features a talented and energetic ensemble led by the aforementioned Fear, with delightful performances by David E. Laker as J.B. Biggley, Ray Essick as his nephew Bud and Jenny Gleason spicing things up as J.B. Biggley's "protege" Hedy La Rue.
Set designer Bernie Wolff creates a simple yet effective corporate environment with sliding panels and strategic furnishings, which allowed this production to move as swiftly as possible for a three-hour romp. The neutral palette provided a pleasing backdrop for the bright and colorful costumes, courtesy of Maureen Tweedy.
Creative choreography by the talented Whitney Havice propelled the ensemble through such memorable numbers as "The Company Way," "A Secretary is Not a Toy," "I Believe in You" and "Brotherhood of Man."
An enjoyable celebration of a timeless Broadway classic, this production will entertain audiences of all ages.
If you go
What: Champaign Urbana Theatre Company presents the musical "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," directed by Amy Stoch; music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, based on Shepherd Mead's 1952 book "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune"
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Parkland College Theatre, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., C
Tickets: $16 for adults; $12 for senior citizens and students; $8 for children
Running time: 3 hours with a 15-minute intermission
More info: 344-3884; http://www.cutc.org
Tricia Stiller serves as director for the McLean County Diversity Project's Theatre Program, the Miller Park Summer Theatre Program and the Penguin Project McLean County. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.