Updated script, talented cast elevate Paramount's 'The Secret of My Success'
Right about now, we could all use a modern fairy tale musical about good-hearted corporate workers who find romance while wresting power away from a cheating CEO. Paramount Theatre's tuneful world-premiere musical, "The Secret of my Success," provides that -- even if the largely enjoyable production doesn't live up its full promise.
The musical is inspired by the 1987 Michael J. Fox film of the same name, which hasn't aged well as a result of its appalling sexual politics and comedy drawn from corporate greed. Plus, the plot of a mailroom clerk who cons his way up the corporate ladder feels cribbed from the hit 1961 musical "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."
For the musical version of "The Secret of my Success," the creators smartly update the show to today and raise the dramatic stakes. The characters are likably refurbished with more complexity and honor in light of the #MeToo era -- a credit to book writers Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen and songwriters Michael Mahler and Alan Schmuckler.
The hero is Brantley Foster (Billy Harrigan Tighe), a college graduate who journeys to New York only to find that he's been laid off on his first day as a junior analyst at Prescott Industries. Bradley doesn't want to admit defeat by returning home to St. Cloud, Minnesota, to be with his widowed mother (Barbara Robertson), so he takes a drudge-filled temp job with the company. While cleaning the office of incoming junior executive Carlton Whitfield (Brandon Dahlquist), Brantley discovers the new father is away on paternity leave and decides to assume Carlton's identity.
As Brantley juggles two jobs, and two personas, complications ensue. Among those is his growing relationship (in the guise of Carlton) with Christy Lockhart (Sydney Morton), a hardworking executive and single mom. She's also being pursued by CEO Piers Johnson (Jeremy Peter Johnson), who is married to the dissatisfied celebrity socialite Vera Prescott (Heidi Kettenring).
Instead of fully embracing the sillier side, however, the script tips too much toward the serious -- including Brantley's late-in-the game daddy issues. And by emphasizing earnest romance over comedy, the farcical shenanigans can feel shortchanged.
That's a shame in light of the talented Paramount cast, which includes a delightful Gabriel Ruiz as Brantley's quirky and long-suffering fellow drudge, Lester Mann, and Ian Michael Stuart as the bullying mullet-sporting boss Garth Portnoy.
Paramount's "The Secret of My Success" features strong and believable performances all around. Director Gordon Greenberg's slick staging also impresses with the high-tech work of designers Jeffrey D. Kmiec (sets), Mike Tutaj (projections) and Greg Hofmann (lighting).
Indeed, Paramount's "Secret" has the look of "Success." But this ambitious screen-to-stage musical adaptation will need more tonal tweaks to the script and score to prove it is deserving of a Broadway promotion.
"The Secret of my Success"★ ★ ★
Location: Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, (630) 896-6666 or paramountaurora.com
Showtimes: 1:30 and 7 p.m. Wednesday, 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday; through Sunday, March 29
Running time: About two hours and 20 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
Parking: Area pay garages and street parking with some time restrictions
Rating: Some adult language, but largely for general audiences