LOGAN — How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying has become an iconic look at the 1960’s workplace through the lens of musical theatre. It’s satirical, stereotypical, and sexist. Instead of resisting the temptation to tone down the now-obvious social faux pas and political incorrectness, director Valerie Rachelle embraced all the charm and wit this show has to offer (“pas” and all), making it a rousing night at the theatre and a successful production for Utah Festival Opera.
The Pulitzer Prize winning play (with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a script by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert based on a book by Shepherd Mead) follows the story of a young window washer named J. Pierrepont Finch (played by Adam Biner), who seeks to improve his career prospects by following the advice he finds in a book aptly named How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Quicker than you can say “Rosemary,” his likable character shoots to the top of the business world, but not without making a few enemies and breaking a few hearts.
Biner’s smooth tenor vocals were matched perfectly with the score, especially in numbers like “I Believe in You” and “The Brotherhood of Man.” Biner’s goofy smile and boy-next-door attitude gave me the opportunity to root for his success and have fun as he climbs the corporate ladder to make it to the top of the World Wide Wicket Company.
Leah Edwards (as Rosemary, J. Pierpont Finch’s love interest) lit up the stage with her presence, and her classical, rich vocals were simply a delight to listen to. Edwards handled the role of the typical early 1960’s woman who yearns only to keep her man happy, with a nice touch of sass followed with a hint of flirtation. Her characterizations worked tremendously well, especially in “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm.” Her chemistry with Biner made their characters alive with a believable relationship, which was most noticeable in the lover’s song, “Rosemary.”
Andrea Hilbrant played Smitty—Rosemary’s fellow secretary—successfully, providing more than enough energy for her performance. For example, in the songs “Been a Long Day” and “Coffee Break,” Hilbrant’s comical facial features and strong comedic timing played an integral part in creating the comedic world of the production. W. Lee Daily (as J. B. Biggley, the president of the company) was a highlight of the evening. Playing the “cool-headed” boss, Daily chose to imbue his character with a sort of neuroticism, a characterization that worked well. In the song “Grand Old Ivy,” for example, Daily gave the audience a taste of his character’s love and passion for his alma mater. When Biner tries to keep up with Daily’s enthusiasm during the song, the result was a side-splitting and memorable moment of the evening.
Lastly, hats off to the set designer Fred M. Duer and the sound designer (not listed in program). Duer’s set was a simple combination of flying elements, colorful LED lights, and rolling pieces, making each scene transition quick and enjoyable. The sound design, especially the mixing of the orchestra and ensemble, was exemplary. Everything was balanced, and not one singer or instrument was too much louder than the other.
In short, Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a well directed, well acted show that was simply a joy the entire evening. From the leads, to the ensemble, to the set, to the sound, all aspects of the production came together to create its own version of success—and succeed it did.