How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe makes his musical debut in the role of J. Pierrepont Finch, a corporate-climbing onetime window washer.
Al Hirschfeld Theater
Forget about the title—in Daniel Radcliffe’s musical debut, it’s clear that the 21-year-old Harry Potter star “is really trying,” said Adam Feldman in Time Out New York. Radcliffe gives “everything he’s got” to the role of J. Pierrepont Finch, a corporate-climbing onetime window washer. But while the young actor’s earnest commitment to singing, dancing, and delivering punch lines will please his many fans, it also limits the effectiveness of his performance. This 50-year-old Frank Loesser musical, for all its candy-colored verve, has a sharply “cynical edge” that requires the lead to possesses “a demonic spark of self-assurance.” It’s a quality that Radcliffe lacks. When he stands in front of a mirror singing “I Believe in You,” Loesser’s great “self-love song” sounds more like “a pep talk.”
Actually, Radcliffe’s “ingratiating manner” suits the show, said David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter. Finch has to keep audiences on his side even while being underhanded, and the “cherubic innocence” that Radcliffe’s Finch projects makes it believable that his boss, played by John Larroquette, would put faith in him. Unfortunately, the chance to judge Radcliffe’s merits might be the “only reason to see the show,” said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. The 1961 book is still rock solid, the songs are “wonderful, of course,” and director Rob Ashford keeps things moving “nimbly enough.” Yet the production as a whole has no sensibility “to call its own.” It’s the kind of “charm-free revival” that challenges anyone to care whether or not it succeeds.