Review: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Daniel Radcliffe is nothing if not conscientiously professional. This is hardly surprising, since both of his parents are “in the biz” (dad’s a literary agent, mom’s in casting) – he’s wholly aware of what is expected of him as “the talent” and works assiduously to rise to the occasion. In the case of director Rob Ashford’s revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying he’s expected to carry a big musical comedy on his shoulders, singing and dancing all the way.

And what do you know, the kid does it. He is immensely charming and charismatic as J. Pierrepont Finch, a young window-cleaner who follows the advice of a book entitled “How to Succeed in Business” and meteorically rises from the mail-room to Vice President of Advertising at the World-Wide Wicket Company.

Radcliffe’s love and respect for musical theatre is crystal clear, and here he successfully lays claim to a rightful place in it. For one thing, his voice is already stronger than Robert Morse’s was in the original production. He also makes the strong choice not to soften Finch’s ambition with winsomeness, as Morse did, and Matthew Broderick in the most recent revival. Radcliffe’s Finch isn’t mean but he’s crisp and unapologetic, a bracing and refreshing take on the role.

The production itself feels like Ashford is getting right most of what he got wrong with Promises, Promises with the lively choreography and colorful design of the two productions looking awfully similar. Then again, in many ways How to Succeed is the show that the original Promises was trying to be, and How to Succeed is a much more straightforward piece of craftsmanship. So starting with stronger material, Ashford gets considerably further with his hyper-kinetic frugging and monkeying. All in all, a thoroughly entertaining revival that has the size and sizzle you expect from a Broadway musical.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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