Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Replacement Broadway casts come in a couple of varieties - there are the replacements with legitimate Broadway credentials and then there are "stunt" replacements where an actor, usually from a semi-hit tv show takes over the lead in a show for a limited number of weeks most likely to get some press and drum up business from tourists for a show that needs a boost at the box office.  I usually prefer the first type of replacements and tend to steer clear of the stunt casting variety, but when it was announced that pop-star Nick Jonas would be taking over the lead in the successful revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying our niece Brittany said that she would really love to go, so off we went, with some reservation on my part I might add.  

Telling the story of a young man's rise up the corporate ladder at a company that is so big no one really knows what anyone else is doing, this revival of How To Succeed is a fun filled comedy with winning performances, joyful dances and some truly comical moments.

Nick Jonas in the opening number
And, I'm happy to report that not only was I pleasantly surprised with Jonas' performance as well as the other new members of the cast, but that the show is even more of a well-oiled machine than it was when we saw the show last Spring.  In Jonas' defense he actually had several Broadway credits before becoming a teen pop phenomenon as one of the Jonas Brothers.   So unlike the many other stunt replacements who have no theatre experience before finding themselves headlining a Broadway show, Jonas has had much experience including his recent stint of playing Marius in the 25th Anniversary of Les Miserables, both in the London cast and in the concert version that was broadcast on PBS and available on dvd.   While I thought Jonas was a little wooden in the concert version of Les Mis, and seemed a bit too focused on hitting all the exact beats and marks necessary that got in the way of him seeming more natural, his singing and look were perfectly in line for the character.  

Beau Bridges
And while Jonas has a better singing voice then Daniel Radcliffe, he is still a little focused on making sure he hits all of his marks that slightly gets in the way of him being the natural in the role that Radcliffe was.   Sure, he is charming, and at only 19 he has a professionalism that actors 10 years older don't have, but he needs to relax just a little bit more in order to really excel in the part.  Now, we only saw him a week into his run, so I'm sure he will naturally evolve and be even better as he gets more performances under his belt.   And, I think that if we hadn't seen Radcliffe twice in the part I would have thought Jonas was even better than I did.  Still, he is giving a really nice performance and will impress anyone who sees him.

Two other cast members have joined the show.  Beau Bridges is now playing J. B. Biggley, the head of the company that Jonas starts working for and Michael Urie is now Biggley's nephew, Bud Frump, the annoying office worker who uses his relationship to the boss to get ahead.  While Bridges might not have the comic chops of his predecessor John Larroquette, he is giving a nice, touching performance filled with warmth and charm and manages fine on the couple of songs he has.   Urie, best known for playing the part of Mark on tv's Ugly Betty, is giving a perfect scene stealing performance, right up there with how one imagines Charles Nelson Reilly who originated this part in the Original Broadway cast was.

Michael Urie
Rose Hemingway is still playing the part of Rosemary, and she has to have one of the most powerhouse of voices on Broadway right now.   Mary Faber is still Smitty, the nosey secretary and Rosemary's friend, and together they are even better in their parts then before with Faber hitting some great comment moments and Hemingway having fun with her new leading man.

Rob Bartlett and Ellen Harvey are still playing Mr. Twimble/Mr. Wopper and Biggley's secretary respectively and like Hemingway and Faber are hitting every comic moment imaginable with Harvey still delivering a phenomenal high note in the second act showstopper "Brotherhood of Man."  Tammy Blanchard was out the night we went, so the part of Hedy La Rue, the sexpot girlfriend of Biggley, was played by understudy Paige Faure and while Faure wasn't quite as funny as Blanchard was when we saw her last Spring, she still made a good impression in the part.

The rest of the ensemble is also delivering even better than before with the various choreographed moments and the hijinks are even funnier than I remember.  It is nice to see the cast still hitting high marks throughout the show even though the show is coming up on it's 1 year anniversary.

My only quibble, which goes back to my earlier comment about Jonas, is that a song like "Grand Old Ivy" that was a knockout with Radcliffe is now less successful due to the fact that Jonas hasn't quite let himself go in the part.   In this song he is supposed to not know the choreography as he is following Bridges as Bridges sings his college's fight song.  But where Radcliffe expertly moved a split second behind Laroquette, since he was watching him do the moves first, Jonas is doing the moves at the exact same time as Bridges, which made absolutely no sense, as he isn't supposed to know the movements for this cheer.   Jonas is so focused on making sure he does everything correct that he is missing some of the smaller moments like this one where he isn't supposed to know what he should do next.  But hopefully in time, Jonas will relax and be even better in the show.

Official Show Site

Highlights from the show including Nick singing parts of three songs:

Nick performs "I Believe In You" -

Nick sings "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" from the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert:

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