How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a show that’s meant to be over the top. I mean huge. It’s no wonder it landed back on Broadway recently as it lends itself to gigantic production numbers and gimmicky special effects associated with big budgets and big talent. This show is all about poking fun of the corporate ladder and West Valley Light Opera’s production is rich with hyperbole and melodrama as it should be. From bigger than life personalities to ridiculously campy takes to the audience, accented with overt lighting changes, it certainly got the “exaggeration memo” unfortunately, some of the problems with the show were also quite exaggerated.
Indeed, this production was riddled with imperfections, from inconsistent musical tempos to unnecessary volume imbalances to a number of underwhelming dance numbers and a few characters who seemed completely out of their comfort zones both vocally and from an acting standpoint. While rooting for the underdog in the show, I found myself hoping some of the mistakes would iron themselves out and win in the end too.
On the plus side there were some genuine moments of wonderful comic timing that helped to mask some of the other production hiccups. The sets were extensive, functional, and well utilized, and the show itself is quite entertaining. The tunes are hummable (when not pitchy) and the story a good light-hearted satirical one with plenty of tongue in cheek and modern references that were worth a chuckle. No complaints on general stage direction either. That along with a couple of well-developed characters who really could sing made for a string of solid beacons of shining art stationed firmly between the seas of average interpretation and execution.
In the end this show doesn’t take itself too seriously and you probably shouldn’t either. It didn’t all come together seamlessly but the cast was having a good time clearly, and the offenses, though significant, were countered with a smattering of strong moments. As the orchestra is not in a pit, you are best to sit further back and to the sides of center for a better view in this venue.
So maybe a little more trying was required to succeed in this case of well-intentioned community theatre? A generous 3 out of 5 jewels in the tiara for this challenged, but somehow still endearing production. How to Succeed… shows through December 3rd in Saratoga.