HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING opened yesterday at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre (302 West 45th Street), starring Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette. A musical parody of 1960's corporate America, this musical revival traces the journey of ambitious mailroom clerk J. Pierrepont Finch (played by Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe), who rockets to the top of Worldwide Wickets through a combination of brown-nosing, dumb luck and advice from the guidebook of the title.
Reviews (from broadwayworldcom):
Ben Brantley, The New York Times:That makes Mr. Radcliffe the only reason to see the show, and contrary to what the title suggests, this young actor really, really tries. (He even does a somersault and lets himself be passed through the air for a football fantasy sequence.) His effortful performance is sure to stir maternal instincts among women of all ages (and probably some men too) and comradely protectiveness among his fans. And - who knows? - perhaps with time this game, engaged performer will come up with a real character to play here. Meanwhile, when he leads the show's big finale, the satirical rouser "Brotherhood of Man," you can be forgiven for thinking it might better be titled "Brotherhood of Manikins."
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Pink is the color favored by Finch's love interest, the sweetly feisty secretary Rosemary Pilkington, who via newcomer Rose Hemingway becomes this season's most adorable and vivacious ingénue. Tammy Blanchard also shines as Biggley's dimwitted mistress, bringing sassy swagger and comic panache to the bimbo role. John Larroquette's Biggley is less of an instant hit, showing even more of a tendency to rush through lines than Radcliffe does, though with less obvious character-based incentive. But Larroquette grows funnier and more lovable as the show progresses, and manages an endearing chemistry with the considerably younger (and shorter) leading man. In fact, Radcliffe ultimately succeeds not by overshadowing his fellow cast members, but by working in conscientious harmony with them - and having a blast in the process.
David Rooney, Reuters/Hollywood Reporter: While he doesn't quite pop as a musical-theater performer, the "Harry Potter" star does a capable job of singing and dancing in the revival, which also stars John Larroquette, Rose Hemingway, Tammy Blanchard and the voice of Anderson Cooper.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Radcliffe has plenty of help onstage from a very funny and smooth John Larroquette as boss J. B. Biggley, a gifted Christopher J. Hanke as his scheming rival Bud Frump, and the delightful Rose Hemingway as his romantic interest Rosemary Pilkington. To be blunt, Radcliffe is not a Broadway singer. His voice is nice, but thin and he strains to fill the theater - "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson would call it "pitchy." Somehow it doesn't matter. He works so hard that we're on his side even if he, like his character, doesn't have the creds. Plus, there's so much here that works: songs by Frank Loesser; a delightfully cynical book about corporate behavior that resonates today; Derek McLane's sets made of massive interlocking cubes; and Catherine Zuber's wickedly clever costumes, not to mention Ashford's cheer-inducing choreography that even takes advantage of Radcliffe's small stature and Larroquette's tall one.
Scott Brown, NY Magazine: What Radcliffe and Ashford pull off in this surprisingly succulent production is a fairly exhilarating demonstration of how a well-run musical, like a well-run company, adapts itself to the peculiar talents of its personnel, and not the other way around. With Ashford's flair, Radcliffe's dogged discipline and great good humor, and a deep bench of performing talent, How to Succeed-written as a poke at at the gray-flannel innards of a mid-century business behemoth-moves with the fleet feet and bright-eyed buoyancy of a startup. Its satiric DNA may be rooted in the Sterling Cooper era, but the energy here is present-tense, urgent and undeniable.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg News: As for the appealing Radcliffe, he's eager to please but lacks a certain urgency that makes Finch dangerous and irresistible at the same time. He's no singer ("I Believe in You," the show's best-known song, barely makes an impression) and not much of a dancer. Still, he does both more than respectably in the rousing "Brotherhood of Man" finale, which sends us home in a forgiving mood.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: Daniel Radcliffe is so ador able in his Broadway musical debut, you just want to pinch his cheeks. It's not just his youth -- the "Harry Potter" star is 21 -- but the endearing amount of dedication and enthusiasm he pours into steering the new revival of "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: In fact, it's hard to unravel where Finch ends and Radcliffe begins, so thoroughly do the two seem to be entwined in this triumphant performance. On the surface, the British actor - with his squat, compact body and somewhat pasty complexion - seems an unlikely leading man. Though he has a stronger singing voice than Broderick and a limber, go-for-it approach to director Rob Ashford's exhaustingly acrobatic choreography, he's not a natural, effortless triple threat. But like Finch, he seems to be tapping into an almost bottomless reserve of willpower and determination to claim his place in the spotlight of a big-budget Broadway musical. Your eyes keep being drawn to him, even if he always lets you see him sweat.
Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune: Ashford does a couple of very shrewd things. First and foremost, he pairs Radcliffe -- whose character races up a corporate ladder with the help of the titular self-help book (Anderson Cooper provides the famous recorded voice) -- with veteran sitcom star John Larroquette, who plays J.B. Biggley, the company president and the show's surrogate father. Larroquette, whose sardonic sense of comedic timing is flawless and whose pacing is relentless, tutors and draws Radcliffe through the book scenes, pulling more laughs than the work of book writers Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert usually now snags.
Steve Suskin, Variety: Radcliffe, the 21-year-old Brit who spent half his life as Harry Potter before starring in "Equus" at the West End and on Broadway, has undergone a crash course in singing, dancing and mugging. Turns out he is proficient at the first, surprisingly adept at the second and
especially good at the third.
Peter Marks, The Washington Post: The star's cause is not bolstered much by director-choreographer Rob Ashford. His concept for the early '60s satire of American business - the story of a smarmily engaging young man who lies his way to the top - is to stylistically turn up the volume, saturating the stage in candy colors and frantic dances. As a result, the musical's digs at corporate life, at the overgrown bureaucracy and ingrown elitism, lose the whiff of sophistication that Frank Loesser's score emits.
Richard Ouzounian, Toronto Star: Director-choreographer Ashford keeps everything moving with a sharpness that's a welcome change from the flat-footedness he showed in last season's Promises, Promises. And when he lets Radcliffe break loose with a series of exhilarating dance moves in the 11 o'clock number, "Brotherhood of Man," you know that all is right with the universe. The world is a happier place to live in now that Harry Potter has found that pot of gold at the end of the Broadway rainbow.
Linda Winer, Newsday: He sings. He dances. Yes, the British mega-star formerly known as young Harry Potter even shaves, proudly, while delivering that irresistibly all-American self-love ballad, "I Believe in You," to his mirror in the executive bathroom in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."
Erik Haagensen, Backstage: You start hoping for the best. Radcliffe's charm quotient is high, he showed significant stage chops two seasons ago in "Equus," and he grew up loving musical theater. In the opening number he displays a thin but true singing voice. But by the time he and a subdued Rob Bartlett get through Loesser's hilarious paean to yes men, "The Company Way," without generating a single laugh, it's clear we're in trouble. Once we get to Finch's Act 2 showstopper "I Believe in You," and Radcliffe merely stands there staring determinedly in the washroom mirror during the instrumental fills designed to give Morse room for sublime bits of comic business, well, the jig has long been up
Howard Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer: In fact, the show itself - arguably the peppiest, cheeriest, most charming Broadway revival since The Pajama Game five seasons back - never seems dated, remarkable when you consider that the world it portrays is so Populuxe you feel as though you should have arrived at Hirschfeld Theatre in an automobile with car fins and popped an orange-flavored Fizzie tablet into a glass of water during intermission.
Joe Dziemianwoicz, NY Daily News: Making his first foray into musical comedy and stepping into a part made famous by Robert Morse, Radcliffe is a likable but very boyish presence. He shows off a pleasant singing voice as corporate climber J. Pierrepont Finch, but he's waxen and not animated enough to make Finch soar. His take on his character's personal pep talk, "I Believe in You," emerges dispiriting. Still, director-choreographer Rob Ashford's production is bright, cheerful and energetic, that's for sure. But at times its supersized mentality and occasionally garish qualities compete with the sleek and sophisticated brilliance of the material.