In the 1961 musical satire How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, ambitious lad J. Pierrepont Finch ascends from window washer to chairman of the board in a snap, thanks to advice from the titular self-help book. We hear passages from the book in voiceover as Finch bones up.
The voice of the book wasn't even credited in the original production's Playbill, but it's become vogue in revivals to have a well-known, authoritative orator record the part: The 1995 Broadway revival, which starred Matthew Broderick as Finch, scored Walter Cronkite as narrator, while the 2011 staging with Daniel Radcliffe had Anderson Cooper doling out advice. And yesterday, the D.C.–area Olney Theatre Center for the Arts (headed up by former Next Theatre Company artistic director Jason Loewith) announced it's snagged Sir Ian McKellen for its upcoming production. Which got me thinking about Porchlight Music Theatre's upcoming How to Succeed revival, set to run April 26–June 1, and who director Rob Lindley might ask to play the voice.
Given the 1960s workplace sensibilities the show sends up (there's a number titled "A Secretary Is Not a Toy"), it sort of has to be a man. Tracy Letts has the right vocal heft and experience in the field: He's two plays into a trilogy as the voice of the dragon Irek Obsidian at the House Theatre. But since he's busy on Broadway this spring, what Chicago voice would you cast as the book?
Letts's fellow Steppenwolf ensemble member James Vincent Meredith comes to mind as a possibility, as does Timothy Edward Kane (if you saw An Iliad, I'm sure you agree). TimeLine's Terry Hamilton could make a fun choice, too. Or Porchlight could follow the Broadway model and look to a news personality: Would Bill Kurtis be down? Does Bill Kurtis say no to anything? Share your ideas below.