This show is filled with comedy and razzle dazzle numbers!
A Dual Critics Review by Dick Kerekes and Leisla Sansom
The Alhambra Theatre opened “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” on February 20th, 2020, which remains on stage through March 22nd. This power house production, with songs and lyrics by Frank Loesser, debuted in 1961 and garnered seven Tony awards along with the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; a film adaptation was released in 1967.
Director and producer Tod Booth has done a marvelous casting job in his selection of the twenty actors who bring the frenzied world of a competitive corporate setting to life. The story is that of an ambitious young window washer who charms his way to the top of the World Wide Wicket Company by using his wits and a self-help book he relies on for guidance along the way.
Loesser’s memorable hummable songs include “I Believe In You,” “The Company Way,” “Coffee Break,” “The Brotherhood of Man,” “A Secretary is Not a Toy” and “Rosemary.”
Costume designers Camala Pitts and Dorinda created and coordinated the clothing of a bygone era; a time with dress codes included men wore dark suits for men and modest skirts and blouses, with heels and hose for women.
The stage background is a mosaic of bright color blocks, another reference to the era. The play requires multiple set changes, which Stage Manager Shain Stroff and his stage crew managed efficiently and made them fun to watch.
Music isn’t everything; characters count, and “Succeed” includes multiple characters who are larger than life. There is of course, the leading man, J. Pierrepont Finch, the bright hard-working window washer, who makes his rapid way up the ladder. Alhambra newcomer Christopher Lewis is absolutely perfect in this role, concealing Finch’s driving ambition with flawless comic decorum, which means getting every possible laugh. And he REALLY sings, along with some mean tap dancing along the way.
Rosemary, Finch’s love interest, is portrayed by Lindsay Nantz, who has appeared in a number of previous Alhambra productions. She sings well and has a heart-melting smile. Sarah Cammarata portrays Rosemary’s best friend Smitty and has an impressive voice as well.
Kurt McCall, veteran of many Alhambra show, has one of his largest roles as big boss J.B Biggley, and he brings hilarity to the role. Biggley also has a bit of romance going on the side with seductive and flighty redhead Hedy LaRue (Maddie Bryan). We find out that Biggley’s private secretary Miss Jones (Lolita Flagg) can really sing late in the show in one of the big dance numbers.
Finch’s rival in the company is Bud Frump portrayed by Ricky Cona with a smug sense of entitlement and a cynical smile: he is Biggley’s nephew.
Our man uses several executives as stepping stones on his way to the top: they include Mr. Twimble (Travis Young), Mr. Gatch (Markus Mann), Mr. Bratt (Andrew LeJeune) Newman). Mr. Womper, Chairman of the Board, has Travis Young doubling back in an important role as he saves Finch’s career.
Also appearing in featured roles were Erick Ariel Sureda (Jenkins), Josh Andrews (Tackaberry), and Brandon Leporati (Peterson). Ensemble members included Rachel Anton, Alexia Adcock-Stanford, Sade Crosby, Hailey Hendrickson, Thomas Nightingale, Erin Leigh Knowles and Alec Hadden.
This show is filled with comedy and razzle dazzle numbers, and while we’ve seen several excellent productions in the past, the Alhambra’s was our favorite.
Additional Production Staff included Tod Booth (Director/Producer), Shani Stroff (Choreographer), Cathy Murphy Giddens (Musical Director), Bryce Cofield (Assistant Stage Manager), Erick Ariel Sureda( Dance Captain), David Dionne & Ian Black (Set Designers), Daniel Dungan (Lighting Designer), Eric Sullivan (Sound Designer), Linnay Bennett (Sound Engineer), and Patti Eyler(Properties).
Upcoming plays of the 2020 season include even more musicals: “Singing in the Rain,” “Grease,” and “Cinderella.” The theatre is located at 12000 Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville, Florida and has ample free parking. Visit alhambrajax.com or call 904-641-1212 for reservations.