PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying — Succeeding By Really Trying

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28 Mar 2011

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Ashford said his biggest hurdle with this project was the same that all revivals face — the memories of previous productions. "Every time you do a revival, I think there are always expectations, always comparisons. It's just about being true to what you want to do with it and not use what someone else did with it as a starting point."

Loesser's final Broadway score was definitely a leg-up for Ashford. "I love the score. We tried not to fool with it much, be very true to the score and serve it up well."

Also, of course, Radcliffe was a complete asset. "He's something to showcase. I did know he could sing well. I knew he was a good actor, and my gut said he could dance. My gut was right. It's great that the audience responds the way they do every night. They love that last number. Dan loves that number. The guys love doing it. It's thrilling — the 11 o'clock number — and, if it lands like that, you're home free, right?"

One bit business in the choreography he takes no credit for — the Tom Cruise-in-love couch-bounce. "That was kinda Dan's idea, but I liked it and decided to use it."

It's a tad premature for Radcliffe to take any bows for choreographic moves. It's enough he mastered the steps at hand — and master it he did, thanks to a slight head-start. "They taught them to me so I had them a little bit in advance before I came into rehearsal," he admitted. "Well, some of them — obviously, a lot changed.

"When I wasn't working, I'd do nine hours a week of dance in London. When I was working, I'd do three on my day off. I've been taking singing lessons for three years. I love my singing teacher and my dance teacher. I should probably give a shout-out to Mark Meylan and Spencer Soloman — they're both fantastic."

Arriving at the top of his game was important to Radcliffe. "It's a fantastic show, and I'm loving working with such a high-caliber of people." Yes, he said, "Brotherhood of Man" is every bit as much fun to dance as it is to watch. It's the whole show that I love, but that moment at the end is the absolute highlight for me."

This is the second Tony-winning show that Radcliffe has picked to revive on Broadway to counterpoint, if not puncture, his Harry Potter persona. (Equus was the other extreme against-type example.) "That he was not Harry Potter was one of the reasons I wanted to do Finch — and that he's so shamelessly ambitious, so much fun to play. It really is a great treat to be able to play him."

John Larroquette
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

It may be Radcliffe's musical-theatre debut, but it's the Broadway debut of both his top co-stars, Rose Hemingway as his girlfriend, Rosemary, and John Larroquette, as J. B. Biggley, the Mr. Big with whom he conspires to curry favor.

She's young, fresh-faced and just off the boat so there's a logic to her making the Main Stem leap now, but there's no excuse for Larroquette, with his four Emmys for "Night Court," to make such a belated Broadway bow.

"Persistence, I guess," is the way he explains how he finally got here. "I wanted to do it. I started asking people about doing it, and then I was offered this. Here I am."

His towering hulk over the diminutive Radcliffe makes a comic Mutt & Jeff spectacle. "I love the size difference," producer Candy Spelling cooed. "The whole thing is so cute. It really works on stage."

La Hemingway admitted she felt a little rattled about being, suddenly, a Broadway actress: "I can't believe it. I feel very lucky, very blessed. There's something shiny and new and exciting about it all." I explained that she made something vibrant out of a potentially vanilla role. "I didn't want her to be your plastic ingénue or boring. It's written in the show that she's really smart and driven. If you look for it, her story parallels Finch's in a lot of ways. She knows she wants to be like him. I think it's important that that part of her character gets out. She's independent and strong-willed and knows what she wants. It happens to be Finch."

She had received praise from Calpurnia (i.e., Michele Lee) and was still fairly glowing. "She was really kind to me. She said she loved the whole performance."

A roly-poly Gleason-like character actor, Rob Bartlett, rises even faster in the organization than Radcliffe, but it takes him two roles to do it — Mr. Twimble, head of the mail room, and Wally Womper, chairman of the board: "It's such an exhilarating experience, but, when you love what you're doing, you're doing it for love. It's the hardest work I've ever done, and I can't wait to go to work every day."

The evening's slam-dunk performance was delivered by Tammy Blanchard as Hedy La Rue, a hip-waving, thoroughly self-aware tart sinking in the secretarial pool while splashing around in the corridors of power. "You don't judge a book by its cover, and that's what my Hedy is based on," Blanchard relayed. "The women in my family are pretty strong. Sometimes they put on a show, and you may think you don't know what's going on, but they know. That's what I love about Hedy. She's very strong, but you could easily judge her the wrong way from the get-go." Opening night was special to her: "I'm so honored because I feel like this audience tonight is the business — the industry — and for them to show me that kind of love means a lot to me. Tonight was the night for me to feel respected — and it was."

Bud Frump, Finch's nemesis and Biggley's nephew, gives Christopher J. Hanke a chance to play the ultimate extension of the clean-cut conniver he played for Ashford's Cry-Baby. "I like that I have discovered him throughout the previews," he said. "I knew what was going on, but every day I would come up with something. Like, 'Oh, he's that,' or 'Oh, he feels that way.' A show that you're with for a long time, when you get to the stage here in New York, you kinda know what's going on, but this has unfolded day after day, and I loved that."

Michael Park was surprised to be playing the most conspicuous suit on the corporate ladder. "That's somebody thinking outside the box," he proffered. "It's usually an older role, but thankfully Rob saw it a different way, and I'm here, and I'm having such a good time walking on stage every single night I feel guilty getting paid." All that, he gets to do his best dancing since Smokey Joe's Café and his striptease for Faith Prince in Little Me ("I've Got Your Number").

Smitty and Miss Jones among the secretaries (Mary Faber and Ellen Harvey) share the same favorite moment: "'Brotherhood of Man,'" said Faber, "when they're just bringing it home. That is the best. Everyone loves that one." Adds Harvey: "It is always as much fun for the audience as it was tonight. Sometimes, even more so. Sometimes, it's downright deafening — and really such fun to do."

Record producer Robert Sher said he plans to do the original cast recording April 10 and 11 at Manhattan Center. "We'll release it on June 6 on Decca Broadway."

Sara Ramirez, the Tony-winning Lady of the Lake from Spamalot, arrived on opening night with some recording news as well: "My first EP was released on iTunes today. It's four songs, three of which I co-wrote with Rob Giles and Michael Pemberton. The fourth song is called 'The Story,' and it's a song my character sings this Thursday night on 'Grey's Anatomy.'"

Producer-writer George Stevens Jr., whose Thurgood with Tony nominee Laurence Fishburne debuted on cable for Black History month, noted a rush of clips from his dad's movies hitting the TV screens this weekend in tribute to Elizabeth Taylor. Stevens Sr. won his two Oscars directing her. "She was 18 when she did 'A Place in the Sun' and 23 when she did 'Giant,'" recalled the son.

"Working just extended in Chicago," said its director, Gordon Greenberg, "and there are new plans for it involving New York and the rest of the U.S." Jed Bernstein has his fingers on this.

Leading the list of people who had to be there on opening night were Bernadette Peters (Blanchard was her Tony-nominated Gypsy Rose Lee); Adam Duritz; director Garry Marshall; Caroline, Or Change's Tony winner Anika Noni Rose; Anything Goes's Robert Creighton (Purser ordinarily, "today I was Moonface for the first time," going on for Joel Grey); Light in the Piazza composer Adam Guettel; and Wicked's Stephen Schwartz (making operatic waves at the Koch with Séance on a Wet Afternoon April 19-May 1).

Also present: Elaine Joyce (Robert Morse's co-star in Sugar) and her husband, Neil Simon, a playwright always welcome at The Plaza after Plaza Suite; Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas; director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall and producer Scott Landis; jazz giant John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey; Red's Tony-winning director, Michael Grandage, and author, John Logan; and Sarah Glendening and Brandon Wardell.

And last but not least: Rachel York; Tom HulceSpencer Liff; Mike Doyle; Matt McGrath; Raza Jaffrey; Lisa Howard; Victor Garber; and Claudia Shear .



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Daniel Radcliffe
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

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