In a recent interview, it became clear that the connection between Cyndi Steele-Harrod and her son Dalton Harrod extends well beyond the traditional familial bond. In musical theater terms, their professional relationship could be described as a mutual admiration society.
Evidence of that shared respect emerged throughout a conversation in which they discussed their current project, the Poteet Theatre production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Cyndi is directing, and Dalton heads the cast.
The 17-year-old actor said that while being directed by his mom placed him in a comfortable situation, he’s received no preferential treatment. Cyndi, in turn, was understandably reluctant to cast her son because of possible complaints about nepotism.
But she was duly impressed that he took the initiative to fly from New York to Oklahoma just to audition for the role. Dalton saw this as an opportunity to stretch his theatrical wings.
The former Oklahomans have spent the past decade living in New York City, where Cyndi is a faculty member at Shuffles, a Broadway tap and musical theater school. Dalton just completed his junior year at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.
Frank Loesser’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical follows J. Pierrepont Finch’s meteoric rise from window washer to executive at the mythical World Wide Wicket Co. The 1961 musical won seven Tony Awards and has received two notable revivals: a 1995 production starring Matthew Broderick and another in 2011 starring Daniel Radcliffe.
“Finch is a vulnerable character because he thinks he’s not as smart as everyone else,” Dalton said. “He wants to climb the corporate ladder quickly so no one will question his ability or his credentials. He compensates for that because he’s so determined.”
So, too, is the actor playing him. Dalton has used his dance background to flesh out the physicality of his role. His character’s rapid-fire speech comes into play as well, something that allows him to move with greater fluency.
In “How to Succeed,” Finch is rarely absent from the stage. It’s also a dialogue-heavy role that would challenge the most experienced actor’s memorization skills. Surprisingly, Dalton committed his lines to memory in only a week and a half.
“It’s one thing to memorize something, but you then have to make it come to life,” Dalton said. “You also have to be comfortable enough with your acting choices so that people will accept what you said.
“It’s important to get off book, because there are so many choices that have to be made — things like subtext and split-second decisions. It’s hard to make those happen if you’re carrying the book around. It’s also a hard role to sing. Finch never stops talking, and when he’s not talking, he’s singing.”
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‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’