The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Organization Rocklin Community Theatre
Date(s) of show July 12-28, 2013
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb
Review How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is the musical comedy story of the ambitious young J. Pierrepont Finch, who rises to the top of World Wide Wickets through scheming and with the advice of a book with the same title as the show. I saw the Park Avenue Cast (all high school and college-age) in Rocklin Community Theatre’s production at Finn Hall in Rocklin in the middle of the show’s run.

One special feature of Rocklin Community Theatre programs is the presence of a live orchestra – in this case with 9 pieces – and their sound filled Finn Hall. In the overture, it seemed to me that there was a problem with intonation with at least one of the instruments, but after that, I never noticed a problem. And besides the good music that accompanied the show, it was handy to have the players ready to provide occasional comic sound effects.

One of my first impressions of the show itself was of the strong, mature voices of the singers, even those with relatively minor parts. No one seemed to be singing out of their range, and along with the good acting that accompanied each number, I felt I could relax and simply enjoy the music.

And good as the singing was, to me, the most salient feature of this show was the outstanding acting. I’m always reluctant to single out performers in a show that is double cast, but I can’t resist mentioning the excellent singing and acting of both leads: Warren Cain as Finch and Caroline Mixon as Rosemary Pilkington. Then there is Bud Frump, played by Jake Romero. This sniveling, mincing villain was portrayed to almost farcical lengths, and was simply hilarious. The young people in this show can’t appreciate the comparison, but Jake constantly reminded me of Paul Lynde. But the over-the-top comic acting didn’t stop with Bud Frump. I’ve seen Alex Crossland in many roles in recent years, but his inspired portrayal of the big boss, J.B. Biggley, will be my favorite memory of him as he leaves the local theater scene for college. Then there was Marlise Dizon, wonderfully ditzy as Hedy LaRue. And Casey Borghesi overflowed with personality as Smitty every time she was on stage. It’s hard to stop there because each of these young people in this cast of 25 or more lived their parts – and then some. I’ve seen a lot of Director Ryan Adame’s work, and his wonderful comic sense seemed transferred to these young actors – both in the broad comic acting and in the wonderfully funny subtle touches that had me laughing for most of two hours.

Another strong feature of this show was Christi Axelson’s choreography. Finn Hall has a very small stage compared to other local theaters, so a dance number with a substantial portion of the cast presents significant challenges. But that’s where creativity comes in, and creativity was apparent in the delightful “Coffee Break” number, with gyrations, jumping, and zombie-like jerking. In that and the other choreographed numbers, such as “A Secretary Is Not a Toy,” I saw comic dance moves that I just don’t think I’ve seen before. But it was the “Brotherhood of Man” number that was a show-stopper for me and the rest of the audience: 12 young men and one young woman in an elaborately choreographed routine. For a moment, I was reminded of the dancing hippos in Disney’s Fantasia.  But that impression was erased by the energetic dancing that nearly brought us to our feet by the end of the number.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying opened on Broadway in 1961, and it is a humorous reflection of the society of the 1950s. (And by the way, Denise McHugh’s costuming and wigs gave a faithful representation of that era.) As I watched this performance, it struck me that none of the good writing of this award-winning show was wasted. The quality of the performance that I saw rested on good casting and good directing.  But beyond that, I felt that these young people “got it” – they understood all the comic subtleties and played them to the hilt.  Bottom line?  This show was fun from beginning to end.

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