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How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

It's a credit to the genius of composer-lyricist Frank Loesser and the sprightly competence of this Colony Studio Theatre production that such an anachronistic piece as "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" actually amuses as an unabashedly sexist glimpse back at a simpler, less politically correct period in American life.

With:
J. Pierrepont Finch - Nick DeGruccio Rosemary - Denise Dillard Bud Frump - Chad Borden J.B. Biggley - D. Ewing Woodruff Hedy LaRue - Judy Walstrum Smitty - Jodi Carlisle Twimble Robert - Stephen Ryan Miss Jones - Peggy Billo Wally Womper - David Holmes Gatch - John Holt Jenkins - David Fuller Bratt - Tom Knickerbocker Book Voice - Chip Heller

It’s a credit to the genius of composer-lyricist Frank Loesser and the sprightly competence of this Colony Studio Theatre production that such an anachronistic piece as “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” actually amuses as an unabashedly sexist glimpse back at a simpler, less politically correct period in American life. Despite the often limpid accompaniment of a bare-bones five-piece pit band, this tune-filled sojourn through the mercurial corporate rise of J. Pierrepont Finch (Nick DeGruccio) manages to hit every mark. Much credit goes to Todd Nielsen, whose inventive staging and choreography keeps a talented, energetic ensemble surging on, through and around Scott Storey’s highly creative modular set design.

Based on Shepherd Mead’s satirical book of the same name, this 1961 Tony Award-winning Broadway hit made a star of Robert Morse, who went on to repeat his role in the film. DeGruccio exudes a much more subdued persona with the show’s hit tune, the self-motivating, “I Believe in You,” but is quite effective as an ambitious window washer who utilizes Mead’s “how to” advice to charm and manipulate his way through the executive jungle of World Wide Wickets.

It is a comically chauvinistic workplace where Finch and the guys all proclaim they are a “Brotherhood of Man”; and the subordinate ladies might complain that “A Secretary Is Not a Toy,” but the height of their ambition is to wed and bed one of these upwardly mobile young execs (“Cinderella, Darling”).

Amid all the corporate shenanigans, a true standout is Chad Borden as Finch’s hyperkinetic nemesis, Bud Frump, nephew of the boss. Borden’s Frump is a ball of frenzied energy, charging through the plot like a button-down Jerry Lewis, hilariously bouncing between malevolent glee and utter despair in his efforts to outfox Finch.

Denise Dillard is endearing as Finch’s staunchly smitten love interest, Rosemary, offering a light-voiced but sweetly sincere ode to domestic tranquillity, “Keeping His Dinner Warm.”

A number of supporting roles also deserve mention. Judy Walstrum is a delight as Hedy LaRue, the boss’s mentally challenged girlfriend who deliciously bumps and grinds her way through the business world.

In a brief outing, Robert Stephen Ryan offers one of the first act’s highlights as Mr. Twimble, the ultimate company cog, whose “The Company Way” celebrates the virtues of mediocrity. And Jodi Carlisle exhibits one of the more adroit musical comedy voices as Smitty, belting out such ditties as “Coffee Break,” “Been a Long Day” and “Paris Original.”

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Colony Studio Theatre; 99 seats; $28 top

Production: Studio Theatre Playhouse presents a Colony production with Barbara Beckley of a musical play in two acts, book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock & Willie Gilbert, music & lyrics by Frank Loesser. Directed, choreographed by Todd Nielsen.

Creative: Musical direction, Brian Murphy; scenic design, Scott Storey; lighting design, Steven Young; costume design, Shon LeBlanc; sound design, John Zalewski; keyboards, Dave Ossman. Opened, reviewed May 23; closes Aug. 15. Running time: 2 HOURS, 40 MIN.

Cast: J. Pierrepont Finch - Nick DeGruccio Rosemary - Denise Dillard Bud Frump - Chad Borden J.B. Biggley - D. Ewing Woodruff Hedy LaRue - Judy Walstrum Smitty - Jodi Carlisle Twimble Robert - Stephen Ryan Miss Jones - Peggy Billo Wally Womper - David Holmes Gatch - John Holt Jenkins - David Fuller Bratt - Tom Knickerbocker Book Voice - Chip HellerEnsemble: Molly Beck, Brian Bethel, Ally Freund, William Gorin, Pamela Leon, Bruce Linser, Sharline Liu, Geordie MacMinn, Jenelle Lynne Randall, Geof Washburn.

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