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How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
a Musical Comedy
by Frank Loesser and ABe Burrows

COMPANY : Button Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Red Clay Theatre
ID# 3543

SHOWING : October 02, 2009 - October 11, 2009



The delightful tale of J Peirpontte Finch and his tremendous rise up the corparate ladder.

Choreographer Maura Carey Gebhardt
Director Mary Carolyn Conti
Music Director Paul A. Tate
Run Stage Manager Jes Harris
JB Biggley Bob Barry
Ensemble Barbara Capogna-Moras
Ensemble Alex Ciccarelli
J Peirpontte Finch Kyle Haak
Rosemary Pilkington Christina Haak
Smitty Keri Hughes
Mr. Gatch / Mr. Womper John Stephen King
Miss Krumholtz Ginny Lockhart
Mr. Bratt Conrad Michels
Hedy LaRue Tracy Moore
Bud Frump Scottie Rowell
Miss Jones Allison Simpson
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Different Strokes for Different Folks
by BenAround
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
(REQUIRED DISCLAIMER: Not affilated with this show or theatre, know a few people in the cast...)

In the last few shows both playgoer and I have reviewed, I see a trend. Playgoer and I view the same show very differently and have pretty much opposite reactions.

While I will agree that Scottie Rowell embodied Bud Frump, he is not the only spark in the show...

I thought Mr. Tate's choices of tempos were not too slow, but actually dead on for the familiar tunes of an oldschool show like H2$. The diction was crisp and clear, and the tempos worked well for the dances. I was never bored with any musical number. I particularly enjoyed Brotherhood of Man which is not even mentioned in the previous review, nor is Ms. Simpson, who was another excellent "spark" in her portrayal of Jonesey. (Being a musician, both singer and accompanist, I am always honest in my review of musical elements and would not have hesitated to say so if this show suffered.)

The choice to use or not use microphones was not that of the actors, but the director. I never felt that was a bad decision. Many productions suffer from poor amplification, static, etc. (even professional shows), but I thought the use of microphones was appropriate and the balance between orchestra and singers was good and consistent. I did not hear anyone holding back and letting the microphones do the job (trash in - trash out, just saying I heard no trash). I did not hear static or feedback.

The choreography was spot on and added to the energy (another spark) of the show IMO. The ensemble did a great job with the dances and movement in spite of a small cast and very limited set design.

I do not agree that the set pieces and design were good choices ... in fact that was the weakest part of the show, combined with unimaginative use of space. I would have liked to see a totally different office setting for JB that did not have the same art on the wall and the "elevator" doors opening into it directly (same for mailroom and board room). I tired of the tables and chairs being the same, even though they were moved about a lot. Thank goodness that the executive "washroom" did not stay the same. That scene would have worked better with the same sink unit they used and a change of lighting to make the background not look the same as every other scene. The basic set worked for the general office area scenes and dances, but "got old" as the show continued and it never moved or changed.

As far as costuming, excellent, but over the period of time of the show, it would have been nice to see the men (including Finch) in something different (even change of shirt/tie???) and Rosemary's dresses needed to be different. Adding or removing a jacket did not make us think it wasn't that same dress we just saw on her. I enjoyed the variety of the ensemble ladies' dresses. (period appropriate and good use of colors)

I agree with playgoer about the Paris Original dresses and was expecting something really different (original). It would have added to the humor of the number had the outfit been more outrageous... (A hat would have been a great way to accessorize the ensemble.)

I think most of the main characters were well cast, including Christina Haak, Bob Barry, Ali Gutierrez (hair included, BTW excellent job on Company Way) as well as the aforementioned Mr.'s Haak and Rowell, and Ms. Simpson. Jeri Hughes did a fine job as Smitty, Rosemary's companion and confidant. The ladies of the ensemble were particularly convincing with their antics, gossip, etc. and also added more of that spark I saw. I do think that Ms. Moore could have played LaRue more in an "over the top" fashion, but was no slouch in her part.

I agree with the previous review about the age of some of the actors, particularly the men, being young but assume that this was the pool of talent. Directors choose from the ones who auditioned. At least there was no attempt to prematurely age the younger guys to look older in a cheesy and fake way.

I was not surprised that this looked like a community theatre show. It is a community theatre, not a professional one.

Playgoer takes a more technical approach to review, I more artistic.
To each his own...

As usual, my two cents is overspent,
Uhm...They claim to be .... by MrPurple
Button has always paid every actor, and always has stated that they are a professional theatre company. For that reason, one should expect more than H2$ gave us.
Point Taken by BenAround
I have never seen a show there and did not know that they considered themselves to be professional. They aren't equity ... so here's a topic for the forum ... Exactly what is a "professional" theatre? Any comments?
Professional Theatre by Parrott65
I would say any theater that actually pays their performers is considered professional. Whether they have joined a union or not doesn't have any bearing on whether or not they are professional. That's just my opinion.
What is professional by debauchee
Paying a livable, weekly wage is what defines professional. Few theaters in Atlanta qualify. It is admirable companies like the Button pay stipends and we should applaud them all for doing so. However, they are still considered "amateur" when negotiating royalties. And they do not have to deal with the fickle world of payroll and insurance.
Missing that Spark
by playgoer
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Button Theatre's "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" is a largely successful production that takes the audience back to a Mad Men era in which business and personal relationships were, shall we say, "unenlightened." It sounds good and moves well, but there's something missing. That certain spark of a hit show just isn't there.

Scottie Rowell has the requisite energy and acting/singing talent to propel the show forward with excitement and verve. He's only one member of the cast, though, and Bud Frump, the character he plays, is the comic villain of the piece. He alone can't drive the show with the speed and sparkle it needs. Against the low-key manner of most of the rest of the cast, he occasionally comes across as manic. That's a shame, because he's doing the best work in the cast. They should be rising to his level, and thankfully he's not descending to theirs.

That's not to say that Kyle Haak, playing the lead role of J. Pierrepoint Finch, is bad in any way. He has a wonderfully expressive face, a lovely voice, and the acting chops to carry the show. You could tell, though, in a couple of moments of microphone crackle, that he was relying on electronic amplification a bit too much. Red Clay Theatre isn't a large venue, and the excitement of unaided projection adds to a show. Holding back and letting electricity do the work saps the show of needed momentum.

There's a bit of "stunt" casting in the show, with Christina Haak, Kyle's real-life wife, playing his love interest in the show. The role of Rosemary is a difficult one, requiring an actress to speak lines that show the distaff side of 1960's "unenlightenment," while still remaining sympathetic to a modern audience. Christina isn't up to the challenge, and it's difficult to care too much about her character. She sings well and acts adequately (and kisses Kyle with believable passion), but she brings little depth to the role.

Bob Barry, epitomizing the male side of "unenlightenment" as JB Biggley, comes across better. His voice is strong, his stage presence commanding, and he gives a generally dynamic performance. The only fault I could find in his performance was a tendency to use Rudy Vallee intonations in a lot of his act one lines. I would have preferred him making the role more his own.

Keri Hughes as Smitty was one of my favorites in the show. She has a great voice, good comic timing, and looks just right for the role. Smitty is written as a fairly low-key, sardonic character, though, and there wasn't enough liveliness in the show to contrast with that. Consequently, her performance didn't land as strongly as it could have.

The sexpot role of Hedy LaRue was played by Tracy Vaden Moore, who did a terrific job with the sweet sincerity of Luisa in "The Fantasticks." Perhaps it was too much to hope that she'd make an equally impressive showing in this production. There was nothing wrong with her performance, but she was cast against type, and couldn't overcome that initial limitation.

Ali Gutierrez best symbolizes the faults of the show. Don't get me wrong -- he does fine vocal work and brings professional confidence to his roles. But he wears a ponytail throughout the show, with the hair coming loose at the sides of his face. This show takes place in the early 1960's, and a ponytailed business executive would not have existed. The lack of commitment in not getting a haircut symbolizes the cast's overall lack of commitment to the period and mores of the show.

Physically, the production is adequate, with a functional set and set pieces. Costumes are better, giving a good taste of the 1960's. I'm on the fence about the effectiveness of the Paris Original gown design used. It's a lovely dress in a stylish print, but it sure looks different on different body types! It's another element in the show that is understated, and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" really needs to try for a comic book sense of fun.

The music used in the show suffers from two deficiencies: the synthesizer used has a cheesy sound for many of the orchestral voices, and the tempos are slow overall. The pop and zing of a zesty show just doesn't come across with leisurely tempos. The playing of the music is fine, with the percussion sounding particularly good.

"How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" is a fun show, very easy to take as long as the audience accepts the 1960's sensibilities it reflects. Button Theatre is putting on a good show, but the mix of actors is too heavy on the young side to be convincing as a real 1960's workplace. The vibe is more that of a community theatre production than that of a top-notch professional production. Given Button Theatre's recent financial difficulties and call for support, that's truly unfortunate. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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