Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot follows young J. Pierrepont Finch, a former window washer who reads a book entitled "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and quickly rises up the corporate ladder at the World Wide Wicket company by following the steps in the book. Finch befriends J.B. Biggley, the president of the company, and in a very determined way he figures out how to be in the right place at the right time to overhear important information that helps ascend the ladder.
The show has a fun, infectious score by Frank Loesser. Bookwriters Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert took a satirical look at corporate life during the he '60s, including the sexism and sexist characters the period personified. Fortunately for MCC, director Jere Van Patten didn't attempt to downplay any of the sexual shenanigans. He even played them up a bit and, with the addition of choreographer Kim Rodriguez's fun and fresh dances, added the occasional turn of events where the female characters prevail over the men.
Van Patten's cast exhibited a good level of sincerity that allowed the audience to root for the characters to succeed while at the same time laugh at the situations they've gotten themselves into, without making the characters too cartoonish or too broad.
Josh Egbert was endearing and lovable as Finch, infusing the part with a huge dollop of charisma. His warm voice and strong stage presence resulted in a winning portrayal of this young man. As Biggley, Darl Jones was strong, funny, and full of charm, while Jessica Sinodis was simply lovely as Rosemary, the secretary who becomes smitten with Finch. Her good comic sensibility and bright voice worked well to create a clear-cut picture of this smart young woman.
Rob Dominguez was excellent as Biggley's nephew Bud Frump, the annoying office worker who uses his relationship to the boss to get ahead. Dominguez was appropriately goofy and irritating with a strong voice that excelled on his many vocal contributions. With excellent comic timing and a soaring singing voice, Emily Noxon was superb as Smitty, the nosey secretary and Rosemary's friend. As the dimwitted steamy sexpot Hedy LaRue, Paige Stabley wasn't quite as wacky as some other portrayals of this part I've seen, but this actually worked well since it made her less cartoonish and more real. Xelha Castrejon was perfectly matter of fact as Miss Jones, Biggley's secretary. She also added some fun jazzy, scat moments to "Brotherhood of Men." Christopher Corn, Thomas Wilson, and Austin Stuart created distinct portrayals of three men Finch encounters as he navigates his way through the company.
MCC's creative elements were very good, with Dori Brown's exceptional set design featuring a beautiful New York City skyline above two elevator doors and several moving set elements that were used to quickly and efficiently changed the scene locations. Aurelie Flores' costumes featured dozens of well executed 1960s style suits and dresses.
With good comical performances from a talented cast, clear cut direction, and lush creative elements, MCC's production of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying was a fun and charming success.
How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying ran from July 14th to July 22nd, 2017, at the Mesa Community College Performing Arts Center in Mesa AZ. Tickets and information for upcoming productions can be ordered at 480-461-7172 or at www.mesacc.edu/arts/events
Stage Direction: Jere Van Patten