Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Venice Theater

Also see Bill's review of Kooza

Jason Ellis
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a terrifically funny satire on big business circa 1960s but really still pretty relevant. It won the 1962 Tony Award for best musical, a Pulitzer Prize the same year, and has had two major Broadway revivals—most recently last season, starring Daniel Radcliffe. It's wonderful to reacquaint myself with this show because, in spite of everything, it does not show up as often as it should in community theaters.

Venice Theater's production features Jason Ellis giving a winning performance as J. Pierrepont Finch, rapidly on the rise from window washer to executive vice president in charge of advertising. He was terrific a few months ago in Manatee Players' Legally Blonde; here he gives an all-out star turn. He is high voltage energy from start to finish, singing and dancing with professional polish. He is assisted by Timothy J. Fitzgerald, all bluster as company president J.B. Biggley, and Sarah Cassidy as wannabe girlfriend Rosemary Pilkington. Her "Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm" is one of the evening's highlights, and she looks like a 1960s Betty Boop with a pageboy flip wig that would have been the height of fashion in the time period. Other strong assets in the cast include Laurie Colton as best friend Smitty, Danae DeShazer as Biggley's girlfriend Hedy LaRue, and Kim Kollar as his secretary Miss Jones. William Murphy as Finch's nemesis Bub Frump is scheming and funny, but could use just a little more bite. Other small featured roles are also well taken.

With all that is enjoyable about the production, it could use more tautness from director Brad Wages. The pace is good but it just doesn't have the follow through energy that this script demands to keep it fresh and as funny as it should be. The script can be a bit cartoonish in its treatment of the emotional elements of the characters; in fact, the movie version starring several people from the original Broadway cast played up this element strongly. Sets by Donna Buckalter use this cartoonish element as a theme. Costumes by Nicholas Hartman are excellent in their 1960s authenticity.

The day after I saw the show I received a press release announcing that Mr. Hartman, who also serves as Venice Theater Marketing Director and Press Liaison, is leaving after 7 years to pursue what sounds like a fabulous new opportunity in New York. We wish him the very best of luck, but he leaves huge shoes to fill as his work has always been of the strongest elements in any Venice Theater production.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying plays through December 2, 2012, so head to Venice for a laugh filled time. Venice Theater,140 West Tampa Ave., Venice, FL Box Office (941) 488-1115

J. Pierrepont Finch: Jason Ellis
Gatch: Phil DeNiro
J.B. Biggley: Timothy J. Fitzgerald
Rosemary Pilkington: Sarah Cassidy
Bratt: David P. Brown
Smitty: Laurie Colton
Bud Frump: William Murphy
Miss Jones: Kim Kollar
Mr. Twimble/Wally Womper: Keith Brayman
Hedy LaRue: Danae DeShazer
Miss Krumholtz: Alana Opie
Mr. Ovington: Scott Mersinger
Noelia Altimarano, Kenzie Balliet, Matty Colonna, Charlotte Crowley, Zak Evanicki, Cammy Harris, Charlie Kollar, Alex Mahadevan, May-Elise Martinsen, Debbi White, Sean London Young.

Director/Choreographer: Brad Wages
Musical Director: Michelle Kasanofsky
Stage Manager: Sue Brennan
Sound Designer: Dorian Boyd
Costume Designer: Nicholas Hartman
Scenic Designer: Donna Buckalter
Lighting Designer: David Castaneda

Photo: Venice Theater

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--William S. Oser

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