Good singers, and not so good. Sharp dancers, and not so sharp. Mighty fine character acting, and just so-so.
The Bellevue Little Theatre's musical "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" falls into that middle ground of community-theater shows. Not a smash, certainly not a bust. Fun to watch, then falls a little flat.
Beyond consistency, an essential for any musical too often went missing at a Thursday night preview: timing. Comedic timing on some laugh lines. Uneven pacing and slow cues that resulted in a nearly 3-hour show. Timing issues between singer-dancers and accompaniment. Late, or early, lighting cues.
Example: Ryan Eberhart plays leading man J. Pierpont Finch, a window washer whose rapid rise within World Wide Wickets is the show's central premise. Throughout the story, whenever he bamboozles everybody around him yet again, the action freezes as he turns to the audience with a toothy smile as if to say: Ain't I a killer?
Eberhart's timing, and the way he delivers that grin, is funny. But the running joke requires a follow spot to hit Finch squarely, at precisely the right second, each time that grin appears. Not happening yet Thursday.
Eberhart, a strong character actor with a fine baritone voice, was also robbed of the full attention he deserved singing Finch's signature number, "I Believe in You." Behind him, in the executive washroom, guys who lined up behind a half-wall hiding urinals drew laughs with wordless antics that pulled the audience out of the song.
Those guys, by the way, do yeomen's work in supporting roles as office executives: Jason DeLong, Jeremy Gillmore, Joshua James Brown, Eric Cavanaugh, Tom Fleckten and especially Adam Hogston. Janie Sandoz made a fine secretarial sidekick, Smitty.
Not every performer can act, sing and dance with equal skill.
Kelly Schlott, as office receptionist Rosemary, who falls hard for Finch; Stephanie Sacco, as the CEO's secretary, Miss Jones; and Ryan Fuller, as the CEO's whining nephew, Frump, embody their characters well but struggled vocally here and there.
Two delightful and hilarious exceptions: Curtis J. Leach as CEO Biggley, who knits to calm down whenever his wife calls; and Jennifer Gilg as Hedy LaRue, a none-too-bright bombshell with a thick Bronx accent who's having an affair with Biggley.
The chorus was fun to watch on big dance numbers like "Coffee Break" or "A Secretary Is Not a Toy," though some of choreographer Kerri Jo Richardson-Watts' trickier steps weren't down pat yet.
Todd Brooks does triple duty as director, music director and keyboardist for the show, leading a trio of accompanists.
On big production numbers I kept wishing for a bigger sound than an electric piano produces, which I guess is really nobody's fault — just a budgetary reality. Jack Hogston's scenery is also minimalist, a wise choice for a smaller stage with a large cast.
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