“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” at the Poteet Theatre is a beautifully performed, high-quality production of a classic musical. Originally produced in 1961, and based on a satirical book from 1952, the show was written by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert, with songs by Frank Loesser. It is certainly a look back at a bygone era in American corporate ladder-climbing.
The cast has their work cut out for them; 1960s Broadway shows are long by design. The extensive exposition does slow the story a little in the first act, but this cast rose to the challenge. Poteet’s ensemble performance was sharp and on point, with many standout moments for individuals. Although the story and satire are both dated, Poteet’s production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” is good theatre well performed.
Director Cyndi Steele-Harrod and her creative team have once again made excellent use of the Poteet’s stage. The singers delivered an excellent tone and blend over a commercially produced music track, although there were a few moments when the singers had to really work to be heard. The choreography was exciting, effective, and sharply performed but it did occasionally put dancers very near the low ceiling. The compressed space is often a challenge, but effective set and lighting design effectively transform the stage space. The show stealing moment, including turntables, lifts, and smoke, belonged to the set.
The cast was excellent, with not single weak performance. Starring as ingenuous and ingenious J. Pierpont Finch, or Ponty, Dalton Harrod carried the show with style and panache. He brought exactly the right balance of self-centered ambition and youthful inexperience to the role, all with pitch perfect comic timing. Ponty gets a job almost entirely by accident in the World Wide Wicket Company and begins an opportunistic, meteoric rise. Finch catches the eye of company president J.B. Biggley, a mature version of Finch, and ably portrayed by Jody White. White gave us the self-preserving and adulterous Biggley as a likeable if distracted rogue.
Finch’s primary antagonist is Biggley’s nephew, Bud Frump, played with delightfully slimy malice by Alex Prather. Prather delivered the sly and occasionally oily Frump with perfect timing and some well-executed moments of old-fashioned physical humor.
The female characters, who are mostly in search of a husband, provide vocal balance in the chorus and some useful plot devices. The role of the primary romantic interest, Rosemary Pilkington, is a traditional “ingénue” role beautifully performed by Abbey Fitzjarrell, who brought a sharp outline to this very pre-feminist role. As the predatory Hedy LaRue, Biggley’s mistress, Kerry Brinkman-White offered a delightfully salacious performance. As Biggley’s all knowing and influential secretary, Paula Parkhurst was solid and at times very sweet. Rosemary’s friend Smitty was played with caustic wit by Rebecca Capra.
“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” plays at the Poteet Theatre, 222 NW 15th Street in Oklahoma City, through August 3, with shows Thursday-Saturday at 8:00 and Sundays at 3:00. The performance is about three hours. Contact the box office at 405.609.1023 or at poteettheatre.com.
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