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New York City Theater

"How to Succeed . . . "
Al Hirschfeld Theater, Broadway

Commerce is what may have made producers decide on still another revival of “How to Succeed.” Although the production doesn’t fly until near the end of Act One, with “Grand Old Ivy,” once it gets its motors revved, the evening takes off.

Of course, the main attraction is the ingratiating Daniel Radcliffe. Unlike his predecessors in the role of Finch -- Robert Morse and Matthew Broderick, both of whom won Tonys – Radcliffe is less calculating, more innocent. His “I Believe in You” substitutes sincerity for bite. But the characterization works as a portrait of willful naïvete.

Radcliffe sings with purity and dances with dexterity. If, at times, he seems straining to “get it right,” he’s charming, handling the comedy as if to the manor born.

John Larroquette brings freshness to the role of the constantly startled J. B. Biggley. Tammy Blanchard twinkles as the pass-around Hedy La Rue, while Rose Hemingway makes an auspicious debut as Rosemary.

This is such a superb score by Frank Loesser, with hit after hit: “Company Way,” “A Secretary is Not a Toy,” the great “Brotherhood of Man.” The sharp book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert won a deserved Pulitzer Prize. Even director / choreographer Rob Ashford’s too-busy dances don’t stop the motion.

It’s all very slick and stylish and maybe it lacks “the grin of impetuous youth,” but once it gets going, “How to Succeed” is irresistible. As the character of Jordan Marsh says in “42nd Street,” the two most glorious words in the English language are “musical comedy.”

--David A. Rosenberg
April 8, 2011

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