THEATER TALK: Darren Criss In "How To Succeed"
I was familiar with the singer-actor from "A Very Potter Musical" and a bit of his work on "Glee," which I watched last season. I knew he was a capable singer and a charismatic personality. That's about all the role of J. Pierrepont Finch needs, really, as Daniel Radcliffe, Criss' predecessor in both the roles of Harry Potter and Finch, showed in his time with the musical.
Criss, who had a very limited rehearsal period before appearing in the show for the first time on Tuesday, brought everything he needed to the role. I quite enjoyed Radcliffe's performance, and I also enjoyed Criss' performance, in a different way.
Criss' Finch was quite likable, which is the most important quality of the character. While he seemed a tad nervous at the beginning, as the show progressed, it was clear that both Criss and Finch felt more and more at home at World Wide Wickets.
Darren Criss is also an accomplished singer and dancer. His easy voice was a delightful addition Frank Loesser's score, and his effortless dancing added to Finch's other smooth qualities. All in all, Darren Criss's performance was lovely and enjoyable to experience. I hope he gets a longer run on Broadway in the near future!
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the other new addition to the show, Beau Bridges. Bridges is replacing John Larroquette, who won a Tony for the role and was known to come up with intuitive riffs on the script that had the audience's sides splitting. Bridges, too, riffed on the script, but not in a comedic way—it was clear he had forgotten his lines. He also resorted to the Rex Harrison style of talking through songs in lieu of singing them. I suppose I wouldn't have minded Bridges' performance so much had I not seen Larroquette's, but such is the nature of seeing two different actors in the same role.
One "fortunate" byproduct of Larroquette's departure is that Christopher J. Hanke now really shines as Bud Frump, the boss' nephew. While he had been pretty funny before, now he steals the show with his dry, apathetic humor, which contrasts nicely with Finch's straight-man personality.
All in all, Darren Criss turned out a very enjoyable performance as J. Pierrepont Finch, and I look forward to seeing what is in store for this young man.
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