How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying 

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HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, Marriott's Lincolnshire Theatre. "Mediocrity is not a mortal sin" is the refrain of "Brotherhood of Man," the faux-gospel showstopper that climaxes this 1961 musical, and this revival of Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows's satire on big business proves the point. Some performances are bland (Sam Samuelson as J. Pierrepont Finch, the window washer who schemes his way to the top of a company "so big that nobody knows what anyone else is doing," and Kelly Anne Clark as the secretary he chases until she catches him), some hilarious (Don Forston as blowhard boss J.B. Biggley, Ray Frewen as a tight-ass VP, and the quintessentially Republican voice of radio's Paul Harvey providing godlike narration), some excessively cartoonish (Paul Slade Smith in a Jim Carrey-Charles Nelson Reilly routine as Finch's arch-rival Bud Frump and E. Faye Butler as Biggley's executive assistant). Thomas M. Ryan's set and Diane Ferry Williams's lighting are often downright bad, obscuring the action with posts and shadows.

But Burrows's smart-ass script and Loesser's clever songs (despite some lamentable cuts) make How to succeed despite the production's flaws. Dyanne Earley's staging dispenses with the updated jokes, jazzed-up musical arrangements, and high-tech staging that marked the recent Broadway "revisal" of the work, here at the Shubert two months ago, but this pre-Dilbert parody of corporate nepotism, sexism, backstabbing, and plain old incompetence still provokes belly laughs of rueful recognition. Some things never go out of fashion.

--Albert Williams

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