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Promise Keepers

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Porchlight Music Theatre's production of Promises, Promises, a fall sensation at the Theatre Building Chicago, is moving to Arlington Heights. This spoof of corporate power games anticipated Frank Loesser's How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in its hard look at office politics and sexual one-upmanship. Based on Billy Wilder's 1960 film The Apartment, the musical sardonically celebrates the slick survival of Chuck, an opportunistic midlevel insurance nerd who moves up the corporate ladder by lending his convenient apartment to his superiors for their extramarital trysts. When he acquires his own love interest, Fran, he finally stands up to the suits who've screwed them both. The 1968 musical version by Neil Simon (book), Hal David (lyrics), and Burt Bacharach (music) seems more dated than Wilder's tale of a lackey who grows a spine, but its funky score, surefire wisecracks, and compassion for the characters keep the action humming, and L. Walter Stearns's sprightly time-capsule staging fully capitalizes on those strengths. Music director Eugene Dizon peps up the vintage 60s winners, like the pulsating title number or the lilting "Whoever You Are, I Love You," and Katrina Williams Brunner supplies period-perfect choreography that lacks only Austin Powers. As Chuck--a square caught in a triangle--Mark E. Smith depicts the lovable loser with a mannered self-effacement that just skirts affectation. His scenes with Meghan Falica's winsome Fran, especially their low-key version of "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," would melt a misanthrope. As Chuck's leering boss, Greg Teghtmeyer brings bracing dignity to a role that could have been too heavy to be human. Promises, Promises runs November 7 through December 8 at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 Campbell in Arlington Heights. Shows are at 8 PM Thursdays through Saturdays, and Sundays at 3. Tickets are $34; call 847-577-2121.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Vic Bider.

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