“Yar a wizard Harry.” And evidently a conniving, fast-thinking, smooth-talking businessman, as seen in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying currently playing at the Al Hirschfeld Theater. I’ve never quite understood people’s fascination with con men, but in entertainment today you just can’t seem to escape their self-serving antics. I am a fervid believer in working hard and think that manipulative rule breaking destroys society (rule breaking and the Kardashian’s). Because of this I was not incredibly inspired by the show overall, although it is an appreciably timely satire of the fallacies of American corporate culture. Thankfully, the energetic and crafty direction of Rob Ashford, the affability of the exuberant cast, the occasional poppy tune, and WWACS (What Would Anderson Cooper Say?) resulted in a superbly entertaining night at the theater.
Rob Ashford’s work has been almost constantly represented on the Broadway stage since his 2002 Tony-winning tapping in Thoroughly Modern Millie. He has become the preeminent director/choreographer for trendy, star-driven revivals (Promises, Promises and the upcoming Evita), and this show further proves his place in a pantheon of contemporary choreographers that are immediate selections for producers. In my observation, he embraces the physicality of dance, and in his new role as director creates a flawlessly fluid relationship between stage movement and dance. Witnessing the near acrobatic skill of the performers just intensifies my craving to see Anything Goes, which beat Ashford’s stunning choreography for the 2011 Tony Award—honestly, I’ve never seen so many creative ways to do cartwheels. View How to Succeed’s show-stopping (or ending) finale, “The Brotherhood of Man,” which elicits well-deserved cheers from the audience.
Daniel Radcliffe. Oh, Harry Potter. Many close friends are going to hate me for saying this, but he’s just good. Compared to the rest of the talent onstage, it’s like he’s a performer from a high school play. But to be fair, in terms of the craft of acting, that’s really where he is. He puts his heart and soul into his performance, and should he choose to have a future on Broadway—instead of just sitting at home with his millions watching Spongebob Squarepants—he has amazing potential (and will perhaps one day receive that ever elusive Tony nomination). He is enthusiastic, witty, and despite his celebrity status is able to establish a meaningful connection with the audience, aided primarily by his spotlit moments of character success. J. Pierrepont Finch (F-I-N-C-H) isn’t inherently likable, but Radcliffe’s charm definitely becomes his redemption. It’s kind of like watching Neil Patrick Harris on “How I Met Your Mother”: Barney is a despicable degenerate, but you gotta love NPH. If you have interest this show, see it soon because either of D-Rad’s replacements will be unwatchable. With Darren Criss (who has skillfully defied the odds and surpassed his cast mates as the most annoying product of the tragic pandemic of “Glee”), I think I would probably get up and leave. Nick Jonas just won’t make any sense, but will of course bring the most profitable demographic ever of teenage girls screaming to the theater. God help us.
The rest of the cast…oh who really cares? Everyone just came to see the wizard. (But really, a valiant effort by all of them. I have never seen a cast congeal into such an effectively cohesive force of entertainment. The ensemble is literally a character of its own. I would like to accept John Larroquette’s Tony Award on behalf of the cast as a whole.)
I view D-Rad’s performance as a critique of celebrity headliners, though unbeknownst to Radcliffe. Season after season, the marquees are filled with the names of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Frequently, they’re honored with Tony Awards for their, um, “efforts” to which they react as if they’ve just been handed a role of toilet paper (Scarlet, darling, I realize that you had probably never even heard of a Tony Award before May 2010, but most people at least smile). It’s a nauseating phenomenon that, thanks to amazing profit margins, will not be going away any time soon. I applaud Radcliffe because he will be with the show for the better part of a year, which for a Broadway actor is comparable to the length of a sneeze, but for the Hollywood glitterati is a massive sacrifice of time (do you have any idea how many fragrances can be launched, marriages faked, and seemingly unposed but really staged “beach body” photos captured in that time? Millions of dollars worth). This is also his second Broadway endeavor, and both stints required serious dedication on his part. His dedication, modesty, and perseverance is commendable and a slap in the face to anyone who thinks Broadway would be something “fun” to do before they have to start filming “RomCom 2: Another Snooze Fest You’ll Be Tricked Into Paying $9 to See with the Promise of a Career Woman Finding Love, Gushy Romantic One-Liners, and Unrealistically Chiseled Male Torsos” (no, that’s not just the working title). Rock on, Danny Rad.
Suggested wine pairing: In a departure from convention, I will not be recommending wine. In honor of the 1960s business culture, I think Don Draper would recommend scotch…but maybe put some Splenda in it.