Robert Morse, from television's "Mad Men" arrives for the 62nd...

Robert Morse, from television's "Mad Men" arrives for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. (Aug. 29, 2010) Credit: AP

When Daniel Radcliffe opens in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" Sunday night, he can take comfort in knowing that two stars of the original 1961 Broadway production do believe in him.

Michele Lee, who played Rosemary, the smitten girlfriend of corporate ladder climber par excellence J. Pierrepont Finch, will be seated front and center to cheer on Radcliffe. Robert Morse, who originated the role of Finch, can't be there, but he couldn't be happier about the revival.

"I think Radcliffe is brilliant and is going to be wonderful in it. I think he's going to stop the show," he says. "I know it will be revitalized and today, and I can't wait to see it."

For both Lee and Morse, the show brings back memories that, to borrow from the show's lyricist Frank Loesser, still have "the slam-bang tang reminiscent of gin and vermouth." Morse still gets heady as he recalls working with choreographer Bob Fosse and his charming assistant, Gwen Verdon.

It was Verdon, then married to Fosse, who came up with the idea for Morse to sing the musical's signature tune, "I Believe in You," while gazing at himself in a mirror. "Opening night in Philadelphia, at the end of that number, people got up on their feet and screamed and yelled," Morse said. "And then the next night, it got a smattering of applause. Nice applause but a smattering. So then the producers and director said, 'What happened to the number?' So Bob worked with me on the number, pretty hard.

"Finally, I said, 'Bob you have to tell the producers that sometimes you have a number that's an opening night number or an Actors Fund number that's going to stop the show. And then maybe the general audience on some nights might just give it a smattering of applause."

Just as Fosse helped Morse master dance, Morse helped Lee master comedy. "I was only about 20 then," said Lee, who had replaced pregnant actress Bonnie Scott one year into the show's run. "I was so green then that I would say a line that should be getting a laugh but wasn't. During intermission, Bobby would call me into his dressing room, which I loved, because I had such a crush on him. He would say to me, 'Michele, when you say this line, talk to yourself -- 1,000, 2,000 -- then say the line and see what happens. So the next time I would say the line, I'd go 1,000, 2,000, and boom, laugh."

But Lee's most vivid memory was of a more serious note -- doing a reprise of "I Believe in You" for the first time after John F. Kennedy's assassination. "At the end of the second act, after Ponty has disappeared, Rosemary looks out to God, her country and the audience and sings, 'You have the cool, clear eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth.' As I was singing it, I realized I was singing at that moment about John F. Kennedy," she said. "You could hear a pin drop, and it was a kind of hypnotic moment between the audience and the performer."

Both actors got to repeat their roles for the 1967 film version, though Morse was disappointed that several numbers were cut, especially the comic ode to caffeine "Coffee Break," which was filmed but never made it to the screen. "That, to me, was one of the heart and souls of the show," Morse said. It was just such a marvelous idea. People shouting 'NO COFFEE'!"

Morse's gig on AMC's "Mad Men" is the reason he can't attend Sunday's opening. His character, Bertram Cooper, head honcho of the series' fictional ad agency, could be a distant relative to Rudy Vallee's J.B. Biggley, Finch's blowhard boss, in "How to Succeed."

"When I walked on the set of 'Mad Men' the first day, I felt like Rudy Vallee," Morse said. "Several people have said to me, 'Why didn't they approach you about playing the Rudy Vallee role?' And I say, "Sorry, but I've done the show, and it's past."

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