Years back, Abe Burrows wrote and directed a little musical comedy called How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, bringing his play to Broadway, and later to an incredibly successful film. Back on Broadway since 2011 – fifty years after it first debuted, this wonderful play has become a success itself, attracting great stars like Beau Bridges, Nick Jonas and in recent runs, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Darren Criss (Glee) and incredibly pleased audiences.
Abe’s little girl is none other than our own Laurie Burrows Grad, Senior Editor here since 1997. Laurie’s Dad was one of the great playwrights, screenwriters and directors of both Broadway and Hollywood, with great involvement in such noteworthy productions as Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, for which he won a Pulitzer. Burrows wrote, doctored, or directed such shows as Make a Wish, Two on the Aisle, Three Wishes for Jamie, Say, Darling, Guys and Dolls, Cactus Flower, Four on a Garden, Can-Can, Silk Stockings, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Good News (1974 revival), and many others. As a screenwriter, one of his great successes was The Solid Gold Cadillac, a movie I’ve always enjoyed.
This revival of How to Succeed proves that Burrows’ work stands the test of time and that no matter the era, his plays and screenplays are popular with contemporary audiences. Still, the producers wisely determined to make the set look like the early 1960’s, creating a fun romp and visit to an earlier time in corporate America.
Candidly, I wasn’t convinced that Nick Jonas was really a good choice to play a role with subtle comedic depth – J. Pierrepont Finch. Of course, I’m a bit prejudiced, having been a great fan of the film all through my childhood, teen years and adulthood. In fact, it was the first movie I can remember my Mother bringing me to see. Somehow, Jonas quickly changed my mind. While he’s a bit new to Broadway, he’s got the talent to be a great Broadway star – a direction I hope he pursues.
Beau Bridges was amazing and outstandingly talented. Filling the role played by none other than Rudy Vallee (in the film), Bridges did a dazzling job as President of World Wide Wicket. I was so impressed that I almost called my broker to buy some shares of WWW!
Michael Urie was the quintessential Budd Frump – playing that role perfectly. I sense a Tony coming! Sara Jean Ford’s ‘Smitty’ was idyllically played, prompting quite a bit of applause for a secondary role. Ellen Harvey brought the audience to its feet during the “Brotherhood of Man” scene, demonstrating a powerful voice heard over the chorus of a dozen men. Kevin Covert, standing in for Rob Bartlett in the dual roles of Mr. Twimble and Wally Womper earned a standing ovation and deservedly so. Stephanie Rothenberg was the ideal Rosemary Pilkington, also earning deep appreciation from the audience.
The cast was incredible; the sets amazing. The one thing I’d point to as inappropriate was that Tammy Blanchard, in the role of Hedy LaRue, played the character as drunk, when in fact the character should be portrayed as a bit of a floozy, though sober. I wasn’t pleased with that idea, though her acting was incredibly good. Candidly, I thought that was just one tiny bit of bad direction out of an overwhelmingly smashing production. Certainly at curtain time, the audience expressed its satisfaction with the entire cast and the direction.
Overall, this revival was one I’m confident Abe Burrows would be proud to be associated with, and so it is. For one can’t conceive of this play without thinking of Abe and his glorious career on and off Broadway. We all owe him for bringing us great entertainment, and we at Epicurus owe him for bringing us our beloved Laurie!
Abe passed away after suffering greatly with Alzheimer’s. Laurie, her husband Peter and brother James (Taxi, Cheers, Wings, 3rd Rock, Will and Grace, Frasier) , annually host a glittering fundraiser for The Alzheimer’s Association of Los Angeles called “A Night at Sardi’s“. Each year they raise money for Alzheimer’s research and care. In fact, Nick Jonas performed at the event in 2011, among a cavalcade of Broadway and Hollywood stars.
How to Succeed? See this musical as soon as possible! You WILL love it. And if you can, make a donation to the Los Angeles Alzhiemer’s Association and help families and caregivers living with Alzheimer’s.
The Al Hirschfeld Theatre
302 West 45th Street
New York, NY
Order online or call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200
Outside the NY metro area (800) 432-7250.