Window washer to the chairman of the board? Thanks to a nifty self-help book, an ambitious corporate climber does just that in Theatre Under the Stars delightful rendition of the 1961 musical.
Based on Shepherd Mead’s 1952 book of the same title, this highly-entertaining production is a humorous and satirical exploration of the corporate jungle of the '50s and '60s, including music and lyrics by Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls, 1950).
With sets inspired by famous Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, the primary colors pop on stage. The costumes make audiences fantasize about mid-century fashions, when people actually dressed well to work (and the word “Kardashian” wasn't in their vernaculars).
Chris Dwan performs a perfect J. Pierrepont Finch, as he's young and wistful at times, manipulative and cunning at others. His Leave It to Beaver Eddie Haskell-like smile at key moments is perfectly timed, with his singing and dancing becoming more and more entertaining as the show progresses. He's paired well with Ashley Blanchet, who plays love interest Rosemary Pilkington. Her voice was one of the strongest in the entire ensemble and she perfectly understood the comedic components of her sometimes saccharine lyrics. I laughed out loud when she sang about “the perfectly understandable neglect” as she planned to swoon Finch and lead him down the aisle and to suburban nirvana in New Rochelle.
Also notable was Felicia Finley as the unforgettable Hedy LaRue, whose command of physical comedy was a huge asset in her role as a dumb blonde who is smart enough to know when someone is pulling her chain. She is her boss’s mistress and can’t seem to find a way to infiltrate the corporate world, exemplifying the stereotypical narrative of women sleeping their way to the top.
“The show examines all of the foibles, eccentricities and madness of corporate America," says Sheldon Epps, TUTS artistic advisor. "Though this was created many years ago, this subject matter seems incredibly relevant—and sometimes equally laughable—right now! And the great score…quite timeless.”
No wonder HTS won seven Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, both in 1962. With a fantastic musical score, witty choreography, voices that soar and comedic timing that you just can’t buy, HTS truly succeeds in every sense of the word.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Thru Nov 6, from $38.50. Theatre Under the Stars, Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby St. 713-315-2400. tuts.com