In the canon of musical comedies, it doesn’t get much better than How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Playing this weekend at The Shedd, this hilarious 1961 musical slyly satirizes the midcentury corporate American workplace, as its hero, J. Pierrepont Finch, a humble window washer, ascends the rungs of the corporate ladder by not really doing anything.
With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, this Broadway hit features a collection of truly great songs, from goofy send-ups of business culture to romantic, lilting odes. The show is chockfull of defining moments in American theater.
Dylan Stasack as Finch has some big shoes to fill, embodying a role defined on stage and screen by the inimitable Robert Morse. Morse’s Finch had the geeky, everyman charm that made us root for him, and though Stasack approaches the part with more bravado, he still sells Finch with all his might. Stasack’s strong voice and charming demeanor give the production an unwavering energy and enthusiasm.
Stephanie Hawkins is lovely as Finch’s wistful but pragmatic love interest, Rosemary. Kaitlyn Sage shines as Rosemary’s best friend Smitty, and Ron Daum delights as blustery boss man J.B. Biggley.
Mark Huisenga’s set design is the most fully realized we’ve seen on a Shedd stage. Hats off to designer Cosmo Cole for whatever he’s done to improve the theater’s acoustics, as every note was resonant and clear. Clever costumes by Jamie Parker root the story in the early ’60s, and Caitlin Christopher’s choreography offers a splash of zaniness in every number.
Director Peg Major plays it for laughs. Not every character is as developed as it could be, and the scene work in the second act could have been faster paced, but who cares? Working with such great material, Major consistently delivers the comedic essentials.
Conductor Robert Ashens leads a tight 15-piece orchestra. There’s just no substitute for live music, and this band sounds great.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying plays 7:30 pm Friday and Saturday, June 26-27, and 2 pm Sunday, June 28, at The Shedd; for tickets, visit theshedd.org, or call 434-7000.