Harry Potter and the Broadway Musical (aka How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying)

There's a lot of good, old-fashioned Broadway fun happening at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, where the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying has been running since March. The show, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert, is based on the book by Shepherd Mead. Starring Daniel Radcliffe (for those of us who live under a rock or have been in a coma for the past ten years, that's Harry potter, y'all) as J. Pierrepont Finch and Tony winner John Larroquette as J.B. Biggley, How to Succeed... is an immensely entertaining show that leaves you tapping your toes and humming the incredibly infectious "Brotherhood of Men" (seriously, we were humming it under our breath for at least a solid week after we saw the show).

The success of the revival is due mainly to the cast, with the obvious draws for the casual theater-goer being Mr. Radcliffe and Mr. Larroquette. After all, who doesn't want to see if Harry Potter can sing and dance? Neither gentlemen disappoints. Mr. Larroquette was fine in his Broadway debut, bringing great humor and stage-presence to the role of Mr. Biggley, the president of World Wide Wickets. His J.B. was a big goof, knitting in his spare time and just generally being ridiculous. Mr. Radcliffe was incredible. I admit that walking into the theater, I wasn't sure what to expect. Sure, he earned rave reviews for his performance in Equus, but that had been straight acting. Singing and dancing were whole other arenas. I walked out of the show completely blown away. While he doesn't have the strongest voice in terms of pure power, it was more than serviceable for the role, and his dancing was very strong. It was obvious that Mr. Radcliffe was completely committed to the role and he looked like he was having the time of his life performing on that stage. He brought such energy to the stage (feeding off the very receptive and appreciative audience, to be sure), and although it was a strong year for male performers on Broadway, I was surprised that he didn't earn a Tony nomination for his role. Mr. Radcliffe and Mr. Larroquette had great comedic chemistry together, especially because Mr. Larroquette is so tall and Mr. Radcliffe is so... not. (That's the only short joke I'll make, but seriously - DanRad is wee.) The two numbers where they get to show off their comedy - "Grand Old Ivy" and "Brotherhood of Men" - are my favorite numbers in the show.

The supporting cast was also superb. Christopher J. Hanke, as J.B. Biggley's slacker nephew Bud Frump, was the perfect "villain" for the light-hearted nature of this show. He could have gone completely over-the-top with the role, but he showed restraint and turned in a delightful performance. In her Broadway debut, Rose Hemingway turned in a stellar performance as Rosemary Pilkington. Her pure voice and general sweetness worked perfectly for the innocent, naive Rosemary. In contrast, Tammy Blanchard was seductive and brash as Hedy La Rue, J.B.'s kind-hearted yet dim-witted mistress. Ms. Blanchard earned a Tony nomination for her role, and while she was certainly hilarious, I would have been equally pleased to see Ms. Hemingway nominated. Her vocals were simply phenomenal. The ensemble nailed the flashy, superb choreography by Rob Ashford, making the whole show immensely enjoyable to watch.

A special shout-out must be given to Michael Park, who was great as Mr. Bratt. My grandmother and mother both watched As the World Turns for years before it went off the air last year, and while it was a bit disconcerting at first to see Jack Snyder singing and dancing (not because it was his first foray onto Broadway, mind you - my mother saw Mr. Park in Smokey Joe's Cafe many years ago), he was wonderful. It's always a treat when actors you know from something other than theater give such fantastic performances- Mr. Radcliffe is further proof of that.

Last, but certainly not least, Michelle and I want to take a moment to fangirl over MARY FUCKING FABER - where the hell did that performance come from?! I was expecting pregnant Heather who hella hearts Oakland, and I got someone completely different. Ms. Faber's Smitty was wry and sarcastic, and she brought a completely different energy to her work than she did in American Idiot. Her performance in How to Succeed... is a testament to her diversity as an actress.

While the show was enjoyable and entertaining, it was not without its short-comings. The show itself felt a little long, with a lot of time spent in Act I introducing characters, such as all the executives, that were hard to keep straight when they were all dressed up in suits (then again, that may have been the point - poking fun at the mentality of big corporations). Additionally, "I Believe in You" was definitely the weakest number in the show because you never really saw Finch be anything other than confident; you never really saw him doubt himself because his crazy schemes or sheer luck was enough to get him through. The portrayal of women was obviously dated and sexist - it is no longer so commonplace for women to be merely secretaries who are "happy to keep his dinner warm" for the men they love and marry. While this conceit was generally played as a nudge to the audience, a "look at how silly this thinking is!" type of thing, there were moments where that conceit seemed to slip, where the joke didn't land, leaving a feeling that something was missing.

There was also no real character development to speak of, but then again it wasn't really needed for a show like this. The characters were all more or less caricatures - the successful businessman, the up-and-coming new guy, the disgruntled employee, the love-struck girl who just wants the object of her affection to love her. Did Finch actually learn his lesson by the end of the show? Not really, but Mr. Radcliffe made his character so likable that it didn't even matter - you rooted for him no matter what. The show was supposed to be light, funny, entertaining, and a bit silly - and it succeeded wildly on all counts.


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