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THEATER REVIEW: “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” succeeds at Welk

A window washer becomes an executive in 2 hours and 40 minutes in the 1961 smash-hit musical “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying,” now in a delightful revival at Welk Resort Theatre.

J. Pierrepont Finch (Allen Everman), following the precepts set down in a book of the same title, gets the job and the girl by sucking up to the right people at the right time, notably the big kahuna, CEO J.B. Biggley (Walter Smith).

“Ponty” frequently thumbs through the book for advice, which comes to the audience as voice-overs provided by Rich Little as Walter Cronkite.

Finch is spotted immediately by secretary Rosemary Pilkington (Natalie Storrs), who sets her sights on the new upstart.

Finch goes through several stepping-stone jobs in short order – starting in the mail room and progressing to vice president of advertising – by the usual methods: a little ego massage, a little backstabbing, a little help from the right people.

One of those people is Biggley’s secretary, Miss Jones (Marie Kelly, who demonstrates terrific vocal agility and power). Finch also learns to step gingerly around Biggley’s mistress, the sexy Hedy LaRue (Lindsay Martin).

Of course, along the way he makes an enemy of sniffy legacy hire Bud Frump (Scott Dreier), the boss’ nephew, but hey, that’s the price of success.

American business is easy (and, let’s face it, fun) to satirize, and writers Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert had a field day with the show’s book.

Take their collection of recognizable and humorous characters, give them Frank Loesser’s inimitable music and lyrics to sing, and it’s no surprise the original Broadway production won seven Tonys.

This production features snappy choreography by director Ray Limon in addition to fine acting, dancing and singing from all. (The awkward “West Side Story”-like choreography for the last “Brotherhood Of Man” number is priceless.)

But the show depends on the cast, and this is a particularly fine one, without a weak link. Everman is terrific as Finch – young, charming, charismatic and possessed of a lovely tenor voice.

Storrs, too, is exactly right – young, pretty and innocent, with a beautiful voice.
Lindsay Martin, on the other hand, plays sexpot Hedy with a faux innocence that amuses – she knows which end is up. And Bethany Slomka is excellent as Rosemary’s friend Smitty.

Smith is fine as CEO Biggley, and the other execs – Mr. Bratt (Donn Hunter), Gatch (Eric Hellmers) and Ovington (Chris Duir) and Tackaberry (Benjamin Hart) are suitable (and nearly indistinguishable) suits, but that’s part of the satire.

Mike Buckley’s set is suitably cookie-cutter but flexible enough to serve as dancers as well as actors.

Wellk, suffering some of the same problems as the rest of the local arts community, gets the most out of its excellent cast and a small but fine four-man combo placed on a platform above the stage.

But there’s no lack of spirit, talent or energy in this fine production.

The details

“How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” plays through Feb. 26 at Welk Theatre San Diego, 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive in Escondido.

Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 1 pm; Thursday at 8 pm; Sunday at 6:30 pm.

For tickets, call (888) 802-7469 or visit HERE. Tickets start at $44 - add a buffet option for $15 more (except on the Sunday twilight shows when no buffet is offered).

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.