Recommended*** Over the years, I have become accustomed to Porchlight MusicTheatre’s creativity in using a small stage to do large musicals. For the most part, they have always selected musicals that have managed to withstand the years gone by. I am afraid that this year’s choice, the Tony award winning, “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying”, one that I have always adored, with a book by Abe Burrows,Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert and songs by Frank Loesser, has not withstood the elements of time. Directed by Rob Lindley with solid Choreography by Brenda Didier and musical direction by Kory Danielson, we have a delightful evening of theater, but not with the excitement that audiences felt back in the day when the original book ( 1952) was written.
The story is about a young window washer in New York, J. Pierrepont Finch ( Tyler Ravelson, who is as bouncy a Finch as I have ever seen on stage) who is reading a book that will take him from his lowly position to the top of the heap. The voice of the book is played by noted newsman/Narrator, Bill Kurtis ( a name that most younger audience members might have heard of from their parents or grandparents. Oh, well, they will also see something called a typewriter ( a key board without the screen mounted an a huge metal paper holder) in this production. Along the path, Finch meets the girl of his dreams ( yet, he doesn’t know it) Rosemary ( Elizabeth Telford, who has a lovely singing voice, but whose mic was somewhat screwed up for opening night), the nephew of the boss, Bud Frump ( deftly handled by John Keating, who does not try to imitate Charles nelson Reilly, who made this his signature role on stage and in the movie).
The boss, J.B. Biggley ( a part that I had the fortune of playing so many years ago) played to perfection by Fred Zimmerman and his girlfriend, Hedy LaRue ( the very sexy Emily Ariel Rogers) and a myriad of office workers who bring solid voices to the music of yesteryear. Two standouts in this production in what are called supporting roles are the always reliable Iris Lieberman as Miss Jones , who will floor you with her little solo in “Brotherhood of Man” she is outstanding and worth the price of the ticket as she sways to the music and lets down her hair and the other Smitty ( a dynamite performance by Sharriese Hamilton) . Musical numbers such as “The Company Way”, “Rosemary”, “been A Long Day”, “I Believe In You” and of course the title song, “How To Succeed” are important to the story but are not songs that were for the most part ever anything but songs that help to tell the story. “Brotherhood of Man” is probably the only song that has been used in other places, but all in all, this was a show that was written for the stage and not to be sung in a club or concert, so it is fitting that Porchlight is presenting it as it was written, as a Musical!
Doing their shows at Stage 773, they have learned how to re-package plays into a smaller venue with smaller sets and do so in a way where nothing is lost. In this production, they have a back wall mad up of many panels that can represent doors, windows or whatever and with great lighting ( Erik Barry) make Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s set work . Cassy Schillo’s props are amazingly accurate ( where did they find so many typewriters?) Bill Morey’s costumes are so 1960’s and the “Paris Original number is sparkling with the amazing dress he created. The music, conducted by Mr. Danielson and his five musicians fills the theater without ever overpowering the singers. We can hear every word. For this, I credit the production staff.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Thursday, May 29th at 1 p.m. will be a special performances.
Tickets are $43.50 and are general admission, open seating, but there are no bad seats in this theater. To order yours visit the box office located at 1225 West Belmont Avenue, call 773-327-5252 or online at www.porchlightmusictheatre.org
There is valet parking at the theater and some street parking. If you dine at Coopers, they offer free parking in their lot.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “How To Succeed in Business without Really Trying”