J. Pierrepont Finch, window washer, has a plan. Using his wits, natural charisma, and the advice of his trusty self-help book How to Succeed in Business, Finch will climb up through the ranks of the World-Wide Wicket Company to take the corporate world by storm.
So opens How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, Theatre by the Sea’s fourth show of the 2012 summer season. Once again, the Ocean State Theatre Company has assembled a very talented cast of musical theatre performers, and the production’s scenic design by Kimberly V. Powers is truly first rate.
Erik Keiser is well-cast as Finch. Keiser has a sparkle in his eyes from his first moments on stage and he approaches each of Finch’s plots and schemes with enthusiasm and charm. Melissa Robinette plays Finch’s leading lady, Rosemary Pilkington, with the right blend of romance and tenacity, and she has a lovely, strong singing voice.
For all of its strong points, How to Succeed does lose considerable momentum early in the production. With a 2 hour 45 minute running time (including intermission), trimming scenes with peripheral subplots or certain repetitive reprises would make for more streamlined storytelling.
Likewise, some of the more colorful characters’ quirks would have a more comic impact if toned down. Hedy LaRue's (mistress to World-Wide Wicket boss J.B. Biggley) booming voice and simple chatter are amusing at first, but become increasingly abrasive when they are repeated in scene after scene. Similarly, the character of Biggley nephew Bud Frump is steeped largely in physical comedy: slinking around corners, skipping across the stage, and exaggerated bouts of sulking. A steady, unrelenting diet of such actions (though executed with skill and panache by Derek Johnson) loses the comedic edge in redundancy.
How to Succeed’s song-and-dance numbers are this production’s greatest strength, and Chris Saunders adapts them well to Matunuck’s petite stage space. Act Two’s “Brotherhood of Man” is the highlight of the show, with complex choreography, and engaging tune and lots of energy. The number also spotlights a tremendous vocalist and performer, the delightful A’Lisa D. Miles, who plays Biggley’s secretary, Miss Jones.
Parents, take note: How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying does include some adult themes and brief language.
Performances of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying run through September 2, 2012 at Theatre by the Sea. Tickets range from $39-54 and can be purchased online at www.theatrebythesea.com, by phone (401) 782-TKTS (8587), or at the TBTS box office, 364 Cards Pond Road, Matunuck, RI. Rush seating and group discounts are available.
Pictured: Melissa Robinette as Rosemary Pilkington and Erik Keiser as J. Pierrepont Finch. Photo by Mark Turek.