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How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

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HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, Drury Lane Oakbrook. There isn't an ounce of dramatic fat in this terrible swift show, a 1962 Pulitzer winner that delivers a still scathing spoof of corporate climbing. The delicious book--by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert--merrily chronicles the devious rise of J. Pierrepont Finch, a window washer who rises thanks to the incompetence, venality, or misguided trust of everyone else at Worldwide Wicket. Frank Loesser's supple score is so perfectly molded to the plot that it's no wonder the musical spawned no big hits.

Finch is a truly subversive creation, a proto-Forrest Gump or Chauncey the gardener. Without mouthing a direct lie, this opportunistic organization man convinces everyone he's the answer to their prayers. True, the brilliant backstabber achieves nothing but apparent power, but that's enough.

Gary Griffin's period staging preserves the show's Eisenhower-era caricatures while shrewdly suggesting that these clumsy conformists are also contemporary. Guy Adkins's rubber-faced Finch has a goofy grace, easily earning the audience's sympathies. He's surrounded by masters of make-believe Joel Hatch as the easily hornswoggled CEO, Angela Berra as a sort of female Finch, Rod Thomas as the boss's odious nephew, Heidi Kettenring as Finch's first wife (you know he'll trade up), and Alene Robertson as the boss's secretary, pouring her heart out in "Brotherhood of Man." Marla Lampert's ditsy 60s choreography gamely depicts everything from a coffee break gone awry to a cheesy television giveaway.

--Lawrence Bommer

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