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Daniel Radcliffe in Broadway's 'How to Succeed in Business': What did the critics think?

March 28, 2011 |  3:06 pm


When Daniel Radcliffe made his Broadway debut in 2008 in "Equus," many young "Harry Potter" fans couldn't see the show because it contained nudity and other explicit sexual scenes. For his stage follow-up, Radcliffe has chosen something much more family-friendly: the effervescent musical "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."

First performed on Broadway in 1961, "How To Succeed," featuring music by Frank Loesser, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in a revival production directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Radcliffe plays the young corporate climber, J. Pierrepont Finch. John Larroquette plays his managerial overlord, J.B. Biggley.

The musical won the Pulitzer Prize in 1962, one of the few stage musicals to take that honor. It also scored the Tony for best musical. A revival in 1995 starred Matthew Broderick, who won the Tony for actor in a musical.

How did the critics react to the new production? So far, the reviews seem to be mixed, though Radcliffe is getting points all around for effort.

Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "there’s no getting around the creakiness" of the musical, but Radcliffe "is an honest-to-goodness trouper. Gleaming with young-adult stardom, he summons all the gusto he can muster for the challenge." In the end, however, the young actor "doesn’t have the theatrical stature to pull together this choppy production."

The New York Times' Ben Brantley described the production as a "charm-free" revival that lacks "a sensibility to call its own." Radcliffe, Brantley says, is "the only reason to see the show," delivering an "effortful performance" that "is sure to stir maternal instincts among women of all ages (and probably some men too) and comradely protectiveness among his fans."

Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal called the production a "hard-charging, high-flying revival of a show whose gleaming craftsmanship is as self-evident today as when it opened on Broadway a half-century ago." Radcliffe is "a pretty good singer and an unexpectedly good dancer," but he "doesn't have the vocal firepower needed to [deliver] his big number 'I Believe in You.'"

The New York Post's Elisabeth Vincentelli praised Radcliffe for "the endearing amount of dedication and enthusiasm he pours into" the production. "The effort put into the performance is noticeable... and it'll be interesting to revisit the show in a few weeks, when he's relaxed into the role." The dancing, choreographed by Ashford, "is both lively and ingenious."

Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News wrote that Radcliffe has a "likable but very boyish presence. He shows off a pleasant singing voice as corporate climber J. Pierrepont Finch, but he's waxen and not animated enough to make Finch soar." Ashford's production is "bright, cheerful and energetic, that's for sure. But at times its supersized mentality and occasionally garish qualities compete with the sleek and sophisticated brilliance of the material."

Sunday's opening night performance was performed to a theater packed with celebrities and  Tony-winning royalty. Click here to read about it and see photos.


Howto2Daniel Radcliffe to take quick hiatus from 'How to Succeed in Business'

Daniel Radcliffe to star in 'How to Succeed in Business' on Broadway

Critics spellbound by Radcliffe's Broadway debut in 'Equus'

Theater review: 'The Book of Mormon' at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre

-- David Ng

Photos: Top, Rose Hemingway and Daniel Radcliffe in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." Credit: Ari Mintz. Bottom, Radcliffe. Credit: Charles Sykes / Associated Press.