Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How to Succeed

Please note: Helsingin kaupunginteatteri invited me to see this production for free. 

Despite my recent foray into the world of jukebox comedy (link is Finnish only), I've always been more into tragedies. All my favourite musicals are full of death: Les Misérables, Jekyll & Hyde, Kristina från Duvemåla... I like watching fun shows, like Hairspray and Legally Blonde, sure, but my real favourites are all tragic.

Except for that I had so much fun watching Helsingin kaupunginteatteri's production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Miten menestyä vaivatta liike-elämässä) yesterday that I may have to reconsider. If I were to add a comedy to my list of favourites, it might very well be this one.


Partially, I've seen plenty of dark shows because that's what Finnish theatres have been producing lately. Helsingin kaupunginteatteri has had its share of shadows during the past few years: Rebecca, Spring Awakening, Next to Normal, Doctor Zhivago... Even Fiddler on the Roof has a dark ending. Light comedies from Broadway's golden age haven't been in fashion. But maybe the recent Broadway revival inspired the theatre to take this classic in their repertoire?

How to Succeed first opened in 1961, and it's also set in the 60s. It tells a story of a young window washer's climb to the top in a big company, with the help of a guidebook that shares its title with the show. The musical is a product of its time: the company where the events take place is firmly a men's world. The executives of World Wide Wicket Company – or Globaalit pakettinappulat, as the perfect yet impossible to translate Finnish name goes – are all men. Women work as secretaries, use their pay on expensive dresses, and dream of marrying a rich man.

The show is a bit old-fashioned overall (and also very clearly American), but not in an annoying way. It's actually rather cute. And, maybe surprisingly, most the jokes don't feel outdated. I'd like to believe the real world of business has evolved a bit since the 60s – but who knows, since it seems that our stereotypical view of it hasn't changed much in the last 50 years. A coffee machine breaking is still a catastrophe.

The production is sweet sweet candy for the eyes and ears. The sets by Jani Uljas make an enviroment as boring as an office look fun. Elina Kolehmainen's costumes are colourful and cute and fit the mood of the story perfectly. As does Frank Loesser's music. The tunes are light and catchy. The Finnish lyrics by Ilkka Talasranta flow well too, adding to the overall good feeling.

And then the best bit: the story of the musical is lots and lots of fun. Many laugh-out-loud jokes and a smile on my face all the way through. That's definitely something I don't usually expercience while watching musicals! The leading man Antti Lang is hilarious as J. Pierrepont Finch, succeeding in business without really trying in a really amusing way. You can't help wishing he'll make it all the way to the top. My long-time favourite Anna Victoria Eriksson is also lovely as his girlfriend Rosemary. Overall, the cast had a great energy – it was a joy watching them.

I didn't expect to enjoy this show this much. Turns out that it was a perfect piece of feel-good theatre for me. I went to the theatre feeling a bit tired and annoyed but wanted to dance on my way out.


My current count says I've seen Les Mis 28 times, so it'll take a while before times I've seen comedies outrank the times I've seen tragedies... But I think I'm going to start increasing the comedy count by seeing this again once or twice.

Photos by Charlotte Estman-Wennström.
Check out the production's trailer.

2 comments:

  1. Feel good! Yes, please. HKT has truly produced a lot of dark-tuned pieces so it's really nice something light and funny has succeeded. Going to see this later, looking forward to it. :)

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