'How to Succeed' a success for actors Children's Theatre does musical well

March 15, 1996|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With its endlessly witty Abe Burrows book and wonderful Frank Loesser score, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" has remained on my short list of favorite shows for more than three decades.

The folks at the Children's Theatre of Annapolis (CTA) have done a nice job with this delightful spoof telling of a would-be tycoon's climb up the corporate ladder, and their handiwork can be admired this weekend at Anne Arundel Community College's Pascal Theater.

The strength of the production lies in its eight principal players, who enter into their roles with admirable brio and bring the goofy good fun of the piece alive with style and punch.

Michael Stoutsenberger is quite good as young J. Pierpont Finch, the ambitious window-washer who manages his career path "by the book" literally. Some of Finch's comedy eludes him, but Stoutsenberger brings enough good things to the role to enable his fine singing voice to propel him over the top. He's a very talented kid.

Abigail Mott brings Rosemary Pilkington, Finch's love interest, alive nicely, especially when she isn't drowned out by the recorded accompaniment. Justin Brill is hilarious as corporate bigwig J. B. Biggley. His "Grand Old Ivy" duet with Finch is the cutest song and dance in the whole show.

Additional laughs are dished up by Chris Dahl as Bud Frump, the wonderfully disgusting nephew of the boss and office bad boy; by Liz Bennett as Hedy Larue, the bimbo who keeps her job by skinny-dipping in the secretarial pool with her corporate sponsors; and by Benjamin Pace, whose Mr. Bratt is as smarmy an office manager as you could imagine.

Kudos also to Lindsay McCurdy as the good-natured Smitty, whose "Been a Long Day" trio with Finch and Pilkington is such a delight, and to Lindsay Erwin as the buttoned-up secretary who comes alive with such gusto in the "Brotherhood of Man" finale.

I wonder, though, whose idea it was to turn Trimble, the down-the-line company mailroom boss, into a foppish clown. His marvelous "Company Way" song doesn't work at all.

The sets, though impressive, are very complex and must have cost a fortune. I mention cost because the cheap, cheesy synthesized tape used to accompany the kids was a disaster. Not only did it make hash of a wonderfully sophisticated score, it also gave the kids precious little to hold onto rhythmically or harmonically. They were fighting for notes, rhythms and cutoffs all show long.

If a scaled-down set could save the company enough to hire a live musician or two, the trade-off would be well worth making.

Who knows? CTA could wind up succeeding a little more without really trying.

"How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" will be presented at the Pascal Center at 7: 30 p.m. today and tomorrow. A 2 p.m. matinee will be presented Sunday. Tickets are $8. Call 757-ACT1 for information.

Pub Date: 3/15/96

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