9:07pm

Sat April 2, 2011
Theater

Daniel Radcliffe Suits Up For 'How To Succeed'

One of the hottest tickets on Broadway is to a 50-year-old musical: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. The Pulitzer Prize-winning corporate satire has a sparkling score by Frank Loesser, but the thing that's packing them into the Hirschfeld Theatre eight times a week is the chance to see a young wizard sing and dance — Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe.

Hordes of kids — accompanied by their parents — are coming to Broadway to get a glimpse of Radcliffe in a different role. He's playing J. Pierrepont Finch, a window washer who rises swiftly up the corporate ladder in the musical.

"I think people are coming to see Daniel and actually leaving having seen a musical that Daniel's starring in, which I think is cool," says How To Succeed director Rob Ashford.

And as audiences have learned, it turns out Radcliffe is something of a song-and-dance man.

"I relish the challenge of it and I look forward to hopefully doing it eight times a week," Radcliffe says. "You know, that's what you get paid for! It's about having that appointment with inspiration every night at eight o'clock."

Radcliffe's resume already includes Broadway experience. In 2008, he took on the role of a disturbed teenager in the play Equus, where How To Succeed's producers first spotted him.

"At the beginning of Equus, I sang the 'Milky Bar' theme tune," he says. "And they came back afterward and said, 'Oh you can sing!' I went, 'Well, I can sing the 'Milky Bar' theme tune.' You know, that's not exactly qualification for doing any kind of Broadway musical, I didn't think. Turns out it was!"

Since then, while filming the final installments of Harry Potter, Radcliffe has taken voice and dance lessons, and worked with a dialect coach.

"He was like an athlete preparing for the Olympics, and that's how he got ready for this," Ashford says.

Previous productions of How To Succeed have featured actors in their 30s playing Finch, the 21-year old Radcliffe felt he could bring something different to the character — an amoral corporate climber.

"It makes him a slightly more compassionate character, and you forgive a lot more because he's young," he says. "You root for him more. And, also, because I'm sort of a little guy and kind of skinny and things, people do tend to, um, root for me, I think!"

Playing opposite the 5-foot 5-inch Radcliffe is 6-foot 4-inch TV star John Larroquette. At age 63, he's making his Broadway debut in the role of corporate president J.B. Biggley.

"I will be bluntly honest," he says. "It could have been almost any play, and if somebody had called me and said we want you to be in Bluh, Bluh, Bluh co-starring with Daniel Radcliffe, the answer would've been 'Yes.'"

Ashford's staging makes the most out of the enormous height difference between the two actors. He's turned "Grand Old Ivy," a parody of a football fight song, into one of the show's highlights.

"It's a great number; it does stop the show, too, which was quite exciting to hear for the first time when we did it in front of an audience at the first preview," says Larroquette.

But it's the musical's finale, "The Brotherhood Of Man," in which Radcliffe really gets to show off his dance moves.

"That whole number was constructed and geared toward the first time, really, in the show that Finch is in charge; that everyone dances the Finch way," Ashford says. "But, then, through the course of it, it ends up being one big celebration."

Radcliffe, who's committed to perform in How To Succeed for the next year, says he's been having a ball winning over some Muggles.

"What's lovely for me is there is a huge amount of support from all the Potter fans coming in," he says. "There's also, you know, a lot of Broadway fans coming in, as well, which is what's very exciting to me." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, host:

One of the hottest tickets on Broadway is to a 50-year-old musical: "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." The Pulitzer Prize-winning corporate satire might have a sparkling score by Frank Loesser, but what's packing them in eight times a week is the chance to see a young wizard sing and dance, Daniel Radcliffe, a.k.a. Harry Potter.

Jeff Lunden reports.

JEFF LUNDEN: I admit it. I'm a Muggle. But there are hordes of kids, accompanied by their parents, coming to Broadway to get a glimpse of Daniel Radcliffe in a different role. He's playing J. Pierrepont Finch, the window washer who rises swiftly up the corporate ladder in "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying." And director Rob Ashford says they're in for a surprise.

Mr. ROB ASHFORD (Director, "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying"): I think people are coming to see Daniel and actually leaving haven't seen the musical that Daniel is starring in, which I think is cool.

(Soundbite of song, "How to Succeed")

Mr. DANIEL RADCLIFFE (Actor): (as J. Pierrepont Finch) (Singing) How to observe personnel. How to select to whom to lunch with. How to avoid petty friends. How to begin making contacts. How to walk into a...

LUNDEN: Thats right. It turns out Daniel Radcliffe is something of a song and dance man.

Mr. RADCLIFFE: I relish the challenge of it and I look forward to hopefully doing it eight times a week. You know, that's what you get paid for. I mean it's about having that appointment with inspiration every night at 8 o'clock.

(Singing) ...That will make your expense account zoom. This book is all that I need. How to, how to succeed.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

LUNDEN: Radcliffe's resume already includes Broadway. Back in 2008, he took on the role of a disturbed teenager in the play "Equus," and "How To Succeed's" producers saw him in that show.

Mr. RADCLIFFE: And at the beginning of "Equus," I sang the "Milky Bar" theme tune. And they came back afterward and said, Oh you can sing? I went, Well, I can sing the "Milky Bar" theme tune. You know, that's not exactly qualification for doing any kind of Broadway musical, I didn't think. Turns out it was.

LUNDEN: Well, not exactly. Since then, while filming the final installments of "Harry Potter," Radcliffe has taken vocal, dance lessons and worked with a dialect coach, says Director Rob Ashford.

Mr. ASHFORD: He was like an athlete preparing for the Olympics, and that's how he got ready for this.

(Soundbite of song, "The Company Way")

Mr. RADCLIFFE: (as J. Pierrepont Finch) (Singing) And do you play it nicely?

Mr. ROBERT BARTLETT (as Mr. Twimble) Play it nicely, still he blitzes me on every game like that.

Mr. RADCLIFFE: (as J. Pierrepont Finch) Why?

Mr. BARTLETT (as Mr. Twimble) 'Cause I play it the company way...

LUNDEN: Radcliffe says previous productions of "How To Succeed" have featured actors in their 30's playing Finch. At age 21, he felt he could bring something different to the character, who's kind of an amoral corporate climber.

Mr. RADCLIFFE: It makes him a slightly more compassionate character, and you forgive a lot more because he's young. You root for him more. Also, because I'm sort of a little guy and kind of skinny and things, people do tend to root for me.

(Soundbite of song, "Grand Old Ivy")

Mr. RADCLIFFE and JOHN LARROQUETTE (Actor): (as J. Pierrepont Finch and J.B. Biggley) (Singing) Stand Old Ivy, stand firm and strong. Grand Old Ivy, hear the cheering throng...

LUNDEN: Playing opposite the five-foot-five Radcliffe is six-foot-four TV star John Larroquette. At age 63, he's making his Broadway debut in the role of corporate president, J.B. Biggley.

Mr. LARROQUETTE: Well, I mean I will be bluntly honest. It could have been almost any play, and if somebody had called me and said we want you to be in a little bluh-bluh, co-starring with Daniel Radcliffe, the answer would've been yes.

LUNDEN: Rob Ashford's staging makes the most out of the enormous height difference between the two actors. He's turned "Grand Old Ivy," a parody of a football fight song, into one of the show's highlights.

Mr. LARROQUETTE: It's a great number. It does stop the show, too, which was quite exciting to hear for the first time when we did it in front of an audience.

(Soundbite of song, "Grand Old Ivy")

Mr. RADCLIFFE and Mr. LARROQUETTE: (as J. Pierrepont Finch and J.B. Biggley) (Singing) Grand Old Ivy, and never yield. Rip, rip, rip the Chipmunk off the field.

LUNDEN: Radcliffe really gets to show off his dance moves in the finale, "The Brotherhood of Man," says Rob Ashford.

Mr. ASHFORD: That whole number was constructed and geared toward the first time really in the show that Finch is in charge; that everyone dances the Finch way. But then, through the course of it, it ends up being one big celebration.

(Soundbite of song, "The Brotherhood of Man")

Mr. RADCLIFFE: (as J. Pierrepont Finch) (Singing) There.

MALE ENSEMBLE: Where?

Mr. RADCLIFFE: (as J. Pierrepont Finch) (Singing) In...

MALE ENSEMBLE: In...

Mr. RADCLIFFE: (as J. Pierrepont Finch) (Singing) ...the...

MALE ENSEMBLE and Mr. RADCLIFFE: (as J. Pierrepont Finch) (Singing) ...the brotherhood of man, dedicated to giving all we can.

Mr. RADCLIFFE: (as J. Pierrepont Finch) (Singing) Oh, aren't you proud to be in that fraternity?

MALE ENSEMBLE and Mr. RADCLIFFE: (as J. Pierrepont Finch) (Singing) The great big brotherhood of man...

LUNDEN: And Daniel Radcliffe, who's committed the next year to perform in "How To Succeed," says he's been having a ball and winning over some Muggles in the process.

Mr. RADCLIFFE: What's lovely for me is there is a huge amount of support from all the "Potter" fans coming in. There's also, you know, a lot of sort of Broadway fans coming in, as well, which is what's very exciting to me.

LUNDEN: "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" is currently playing at the Al Hirschfeld Theater on Broadway.

For NPR News, Im Jeff Lunden in New York.

GREENE: And if you'd like to see video of Daniel Radcliffe singing and dancing in the show, "How To Succeed," you can go to NPR.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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