HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING at the Kennedy Center - A Musical to Savor

Once again, the Kennedy Center's "Broadway Center Stage" series successfully transforms "older" musicals to a presentation similar to the New York's "Encore" series at City Center in which shows are not presented as a finished product like one sees on Broadway but are semi-staged. The first two were the amazing CHESS and IN THE HEIGHTS in which scripts were actually used by actors. There are no scripts used here.

Let me say straight out I have a bias about this third "Broadway Center Stage" incarnation, HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING. This was the first Broadway show I ever saw. It was 1961 and it starred Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee. I was hooked. I would much later catch up with Morse at New York's famous Sam's restaurant and thanked him for his performance and credited him for me falling in love with theater.

It was a few years later that I had the chance to be in the ensemble of the show and play "The Chairman of the Board" while in college. What a thrill that was.

So, I was truly excited to see the Kennedy Center would be doing HOW TO SUCCEED.

But I have a major complaint. This show is so good, it's a shame it ONLY plays 7 performances. It deserves at least two weeks. The cast I was told at the backstage door had only two weeks to prepare and in the case of John Michael Higgins, just one week. This is a miracle! I could not stop smiling during the entire show.

The musical garnered 7 Tony Awards including Best Musical and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The story revolves around J. Pierpont Finch who makes his appearance as a window-washer on the huge office building of the World-Wide Wickets Corporation. He descends from the top of the Eisenhower stage washing windows but reading a manual book called "How Do Succeed". The book is narrated by a female recorded voice (thanks to the Washington Post's Peter Marks who mentioned the voice belongs to Bebe Neuwith). We watch Finch make is way from a window washer, to the mail room, to a Vice -President, to advertising.

This work cannot "succeed" without a terrific Finch and Director Bruni hit pay dirt with the brilliant Skylar Astin in the leading role. Playing this role in previous revivals were Matthew Broderick and Daniel Radcliffe. I felt like I was watching the definitive Finch that composer Frank Loesser and book writers Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert had in mind. Astin, who originated the role of "Georg" in SPRING AWAKENING but is probably best known for his break-out role as "Jesse" in the films "Pitch Perfect 1 and 2". If he had stock, I would invest in him. What a future he has in store. He has such comedic timing, a fluid dancer, and a superb voice.

He works great with Betsy Wolfe who plays his love interest, "Rosemary". I remember Wolfe so well for her performance as Cathy Hyatt in the acclaimed Second Stage revival of Jason Robert Brown's THE LAST FIVE YEARS. She shines whenever she is on stage.

What a coup for Bruni to pluck Michael Urie to play "Bud Frump". I was fortunate to see him in his solo work BUYER & CELLAR at the Shakespeare Theatre where he earlier this year played HAMLET directed by Shakespeare Theatre Artistic Director Michael Kahn (who I noticed in the audience). Urie is just plain a talented comedic actor and he milks this part to the enjoyment of all.

I have been a huge fan of Urie since his television show "Ugly Betty". He fellow castmate from "Ugly Betty" Becki Newton plays Hedy LaRue, the sexy attaché to J.B. Biggley (John Michael Higgins), the President of World Wide Wickets.

Higgins brings the house down along with Astin in the college duet "Grand Old Ivey".

A favorite of local audiences, Nova Y. Payton, excels in her role of "Miss Jones" and nails her solo in the iconic anthem "The Brotherhood of Man".

The limber ensemble dances up a storm to the clever choreography by Denis Jones especially in "Coffee Break" and "The Brotherhood of Man".

The erector-set style set by Scott Pask (Tony nominated for both THE BAND'S VISIT and MEAN GIRLS) works so well putting the excellent 17-piece orchestra on top of the stage. Bruni uses the top of the scaffold set cleverly and even has both Astin and Wolfe not only sing together in front of Conductor Todd Ellison and the orchestra, they take the baton to conduct for a short while to the delight of the audience.

Caite Hevner is responsible for the projections which demonstrate the elevator going up via her projections climbing up the skyscraper. Hevner also did the moving projections for the east coast premiere of THE BOOK OF JOSEPH at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre.

The Costume Designer, Amy Clark, nails the 1961 look.

Peter Kaczorowski did the lighting and I just loved the spotlight on Finch whenever he succeeds in climbing the ladder of success.

Special kudos to Brian Ronan for his Sound Design. I did not miss one lyric or line. This is so unusual today.

To say I loved this show is an understatement. This was one of the most enjoyable musicals I have scene all year. Don't miss it. It runs until Sunday, June 10. For tickets, call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.

THIS AND THAT

Broadway Center Stage continues with:

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Oct. 24 to 28 2018

THE MUSIC MAN Feb. 6-10, 2009

THE WHO'S TOMMY Aug. 25 -28, 2009

This summer at the Kennedy Center has " ain't too proud, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS" June 19 to July 22 and THE COLOR PURPLE July 31 to August 26, 2018.

OH...there's also a show called HAMILTON June 12 to Sept. 16.

Olney Theatre Center has Leonard Bernstein's musical ON THE TOWN June 20 to July 22, 2018

Arena stage has the world premiere of DAVE running July 13, to August 19, 2018.

There is FREE outdoor Shakespeare at Howard Community College. TWELFTH NIGHT runs June 28-30 at HCC's outdoor Dreir Stage at 8 p.m.

CAMELOT continues at the Shakespeare Theatre until July 1, 2018

Signature Theatre has THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS until July 1, 2018.

Remember August 5, 2018 for the FREE Signature Annual Open House all day from noon to 8:30 p.m.

The musical PASSION starts their new season running August 14 to Sept. 23, 201

Celebrating 75 Years of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Musical, a free exhibition now open at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, shines a spotlight on the iconic musical-producing pair seventy-five years after their first collaboration, Oklahoma!, debuted.

With digital displays, scenic designs, and other treasures, this exhibit examines the innovations that led to the Rodgers and Hammerstein revolution on Broadway. Some highlights of the exhibition include:

  • A video wall featuring the ballet dream sequence in Oklahoma! and documents from the Agnes de Mille's papers, preserved here in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, as well as archival video from the Rodgers and Hammerstein organization. The video illustrates De Mille's choreography notes as the dance is performed.
  • Carousel's set designs and sketches: Carousel simultaneously contrasts the beauty of the New England scenery with the inherent savagery of life in the village. Jo Mielziner's scenic designs depicted the breathtaking landscapes that would hang behind the often terrible actions performed on the stage.
  • Broadway revivals for Oklahoma! were produced on Broadway in both 1969 and 2002 - for both productions Al Hirschfeld created caricatures for the The New York Times which are now preserved in the Library's Billy Rose Theater Division.
  • Department window display photos; during the original run of the show, press agents attempted to market both the tour and the cast recording through window displays in the storefronts of shops across America. Some of these displays were photographed and are now preserved in our collections.

Additionally, the exhibition contains over seventy items including promotional material from all Broadway productions, photos from the original Carousel production, and costume designs.

cgshubow@broadwayworld.com

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From This Author Charles Shubow

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