Daniel Radcliffe received critical cheers Sunday for his role in the second rialto revival of the Tony-winning musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” In his first post-“Harry Potter” part, Radcliffe is playing J. Pierpont Finch, a window cleaner who rises to the top of a huge company while, of course, wooing and winning a girl along the way.
“How to Succeed” is one of only eight musicals to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama. The original production won the top Tony for Best Musical in 1962 as well as six more, including awards for lead Robert Morse and supporting player Charles Nelson Reilly. And the 1995 restaging of “How to Succeed” won Matthew Broderick the Best Musical Actor award.
Elysa Gardner (USA Today) thought, “Radcliffe ultimately succeeds not by overshadowing his fellow cast members, but by working in conscientious harmony with them and having a blast in the process.” For Thom Geier (Entertainment Weekly), “it’s hard to unravel where Finch ends and Radcliffe begins, so thoroughly do the two seem to be entwined in this triumphant performance.
And while Ben Brantley (New York Times) had reservations about the revival, he thought “Radcliffe the only reason to see the show, and contrary to what the title suggests, this young actor really, really tries. (He even does a somersault and lets himself be passed through the air for a football fantasy sequence.) His effortful performance is sure to stir maternal instincts among women of all ages (and probably some men too) and comradely protectiveness among his fans.”
Among the rest of the cast who earned favorable notices are five-time Emmy champ John Laroquette as the boss from hell, Emmy champ Tammy Blanchard (“Me and My Shadows”) as the office flirt and Broadway newcomer Rose Hemingway as the good girl. However, Tony Award winner Rob Ashford (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”) was faulted by some critics for his direction and choreography.