“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” – Theater Works

This review aired on KBAQ October 20, 2014


”How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”
Theater Works, Peoria Center for the Performing Arts
Peoria, AZ

Theater Works has come a long way from its early days in a barn.  They’ve had their share of impressive productions like last season’s “Ragtime,” but there are still too many middling shows.  Their current musical, a disappointing “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” is plagued by two factors.

The musical won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama plus the Tony Award and the Drama Critics’ Circle nod as Best Musical when it premiered in 1961.  At the time, women were still battling their place in the work world as sex objects so Frank Loesser’s last musical spoofs with a loud slap how badly women were then treated by the biased males who ran corporations.

The plot focuses on window washer J. Pierrepont Finch who, with unabashed nerviness, pushes his way to the top of World Wide Wickets as he makes the men who run the corporation, including head honcho J. B. Biggley, look like the sexist imbeciles they are.  Woven in is Finch’s burgeoning love affair with secretary Rosemary Pinkleton.  Women have come a long way since 1961 and although there’s still a long road to go before women are always treated equally in the business world, “How to Succeed…” now looks like a quaint period piece.

The other weakness is director Toby Yatso’s plodding production.  Yatso struggles with everything in the show but as director he must take the blame for his lethargic staging, a terrible set design, clunky and unattractive costumes, plus pointlessly bland choreography that turns many production numbers into meaningless bores.

Finally, there’s a disappointing cast.  Joshua Vern tries hard as Finch.  He sings agreeably but he delivers the slyly humorous jabs at his fellow workers with a heavy hand that destroys the subtly funny innuendo.  Jeffrey Middleton hollers his way through Biggley but is rarely funny.  Aya (I a) Nameth does nothing with Rosemary to attract Finch while Allanna Kalbfleisch’s Smitty never shimmers.  As the dimwitted but sexy secretary Hedy LaRue, Osiris Cuen has a few cute moments but the rest of the cast is mediocre at best.

There were only 60 theatergoers at the performance I attended and several abandoned the show at intermission.  The musical is long and could have used several judicious cuts to shorten its almost three hour running time.  “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” earns two stars out of five and continues through November 9.  For tickets, call the Theater Works box office at 623-815-7930 or order online at www.theaterworks.org.

Grade: D