It’s bold to revive a show titled “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” against the current economic climate — and just six years after the second and most recent iteration closed on Broadway. The show deals with scheming one’s way to the top, a theme which can either insult or strike just the right chord with audiences who are likely more in touch with unemployment and job dissatisfaction than they were in 1961, when the musical originally debuted and in which it’s still set.
It’s also an interesting move to see it during the height of “Harry Potter” mania, as the last installation of the film series hit theaters this week. Tickets are selling fast, largely thanks to Daniel Radcliffe, the show’s capable lead – diverting from his known big-screen acting chops as well as his dramatic onstage portrayal in 2009’s “Equus” to charm, joke, sing and dance his way through this nearly three-hour musical. Early in the evening, anyone passing the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on 45th Street will notice a line of his fans toting wizard paraphernalia, already waiting patiently for his exit after curtain call.
Meanwhile, inside, Radcliffe portrays J. Pierrepont Finch, a window-washer desperate to quickly climb the corporate ladder. With a pleasant, albeit not-too-powerful voice, Radcliffe’s biggest boons are perhaps his comedic timing, likeability and surprisingly adept movement skills. The director and choreographer don’t hesitate to play on his height — yet, to his credit, it’s never a handicap in large dance numbers surrounded by an ensemble of pros. Another big name is John Larroquette, who plays the president of the company, World Wide Wickets. In one of the more delightful scenes, the duo bonds by reminiscing about knitting and college football (with Finch conning his way through).
Although it’s the females in this show who bring the real power vocals to secondary romantic storylines, it’s the silly, fun group numbers with both the secretaries and suits that add the best energy and — despite some staid, dated satirical material — make this show an overall success.