Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
nytheatre.com review by Kat Chamberlain
July 15, 2007
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? by George Axelrod is a biting satirical fantasy, a goofy, fun piece with a big heart. There is a reason why it ran for 444 performances on Broadway back in 1955. Although this revival in the Midtown International Theatre Festival doesn't have the polish of a Broadway hit, the high energy and enthusiasm of the actors more than make up for it.
The audience is greeted before the show starts by the sight of Rita Marlowe, Hollywood's newest pin-up girl, lying on a massage table on the stage getting a rubdown. It sets the tone for an all-out comedy. We meet almost all at once the key players as they flock to her room: George, the rookie reporter who is thoroughly star-struck; Rita's latest sweetheart, Michael, who hasn't written anything in two years since his smashing debut play; Harry, a brash studio head; and a (literally) devilish agent, Irving.
The story is familiarly Faustian: George has only written one interview piece, "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?", in his flimsy writing career and considers himself a permanent loser in life. No girls. No fame. No money. George is quickly approached by Irving, who claims that he can make anything happen for the price of 10% of George's soul—per wish. George tests this outlandish offer by asking for one million dollars. As soon as the handshake seals the deal, the call to George's bank confirms the deposit.
George is not at all concerned about losing his soul. He has nothing going for him anyway. So with Irving's help—and his soul diminishing rapidly—life changes and he gets everything he wants. Or does he? The play takes a few turns and I was very impressed with where it ends up.
Widely viewed as a caricature of Marilyn Monroe, the role of Rita is portrayed with zeal by the physically stunning Jennifer Danielle. George is at times a wide-eyed nobody and a magically transformed wonder boy, thanks to Morgan Sills's fluid delivery. Eric Rubbe's Michael is so natural that I believed everything he said. But the show rests on Tuck Milligan's mysterious and sly Irving. In the beginning his acting seems a bit rushed, but by the end the smirk and grind and all-knowing glint in his eyes really work wonders. Director Holly-Anne Ruggiero moves things along seamlessly. Costumes by Maria Zamansky are particularly eye-catching.
Hollywood and Broadway may or may not have changed much in terms of the jealousy, compromising, and lying, but Axelrod's play gets to me on a much deeper level—sometimes not only that we don't know what we are giving up, we don't know what we are wishing for and getting in return, either. We are not spoiled by the success. We lost sight of ourselves long before that.