Ever wonder how to succeed in show business by trying really hard? Garland Summer Musicals does it the company way.
Producer Patty Granville and director Buff Shurr blend seasoned pros with live-wire collegians to create an ensemble that consistently delivers the goods in that vehicle that is so difficult for regional playhouses: the big musical. Garland's latest success story is How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, a 51-year-old classic brought to vibrant young life on the Granville Arts Center stage.
Any production of this show turns on the portrayal of J. Pierrepont Finch, the ambitious young sharpie determined to rise from entry level drone to executive in record time at World Wide Wickets, Inc. His handbook for success is How to Succeed…, Shepherd Mead's 1950s satire of big business. Robert Morse was the original Broadway Finch, and he repeated his performance in the movie version six years later. Subsequent Broadway revivals have starred Matthew Broderick, Daniel Radcliffe and Nick Jonas as Finch.
In the GSM edition, Carl DeForrest Hendin plays Finch as if the role were created for him. A better singer than Morse, he bends a legit tenor voice around Frank Loesser gems such as "I Believe in You" and "Rosemary." And he captures perfectly the impish charm of the calculating schemer. His best running gag is a beatific grin flashed at the audience and blessed by lighting designer Susan A. White with a halo-like effect.
Erica Harte is a vivacious seller of songs as Rosemary, the secretary smitten by Finch. She would be "Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm" while he scales the corporate ladder. Harte's acting prowess is as vital as her vocal strengths.
James Williams, a Garland audience favorite who is equally adept with drama or comedy, goes the latter route here as J.B. Biggley, the pompous president of World Wide Wickets. He and Hendin team up with glorious success on "Grand Old Ivy." Hayley Ewerz, as the bimbette who is J.B.'s girlfriend, gives the standard vamp caricature a little extra pizzaz. She and the female dance ensemble are just cheesy enough on "Yo Ho Ho."
Daniel Saroni, recalled fondly as a suave and limber Rum Tum Tugger last season in Cats, recycles many of the same loose-limbed maneuvers this time in a terrific portrayal of Bud Frump, the insufferable nephew of the boss.
Randy Pearlman sparkles as Twimble, the mail room chief who lives his life the "Company Way," a terrific number that features Hendin and, in a cute reprise, Saroni. Per tradition, Pearlman also plays Mr. Womper, the board chairman of WWW. He and Hendin lead a platoon of castmates on "Brotherhood of Man." Choreographer Kelly McCain hits a home run here, working magic with an array of physical sizes and shapes and dance abilities.
Jennifer Randolph and Stephanie Felton score comic points as alpha female secretary types. Neill Rogers, meanwhile, reminds male workers that "A Secretary Is Not a Toy."
Terry McEnroe sheds his South Pacific tattoos for a brief but memorable sketch of the doomed advertising director. And Mitch Carr's voice dispenses droll advice from the Mead book.
Kelly Cox's scenic design is more functional than visually appealing. (The executive suites are a bit spartan.) The costumes of Michael Robinson and Suzi Shankle are '60s spiffy ─ diverse standouts being the identical "Paris Original" cocktail dresses worn by the entire female ensemble; and the gawd-awful sport coat bravely worn by Ron Biancardi as a TV announcer.
Musical director Mark Mullino and a dozen-member orchestra have a winning way with the Loesser score, despite overpowering the vocalists in a couple of choruses.