How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Review - The Curvy Ladder to the Top

When Shepherd Mead wrote the satirical bestseller with the same title in 1952, he provided the impetus for Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert to pen a play in 1955 based on the novel. However, lasting fame came when Abe Burrows (book) and Frank Loesser (music and lyrics) adapted the play into a musical. HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING opened on Broadway in October 1961 to rave reviews and ran for 1,417 performances. The play garnered seven Tony Awards, a New York Drama Critics Award, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1962. In 1967, it was produced as a film starring Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee, who were in the original Broadway production. Since then, there have been numerous revivals of this popular musical. The most recent revival is now at the Glendale Theatre.

 

Kent Cain - Photo by Angela Manke

HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING is a lively musical about a lowly window washer who happens upon a “how-to” book instructing him in the steps necessary to become a success. J. Pierrepont Finch (Kent Cain) decides that he has nothing to lose, and so begins the rags to riches tale. Finch proves to be a devious, Machiavellian scammer who first searches for the ideal company to target: “It should be large enough so that they don’t know what you’re doing.” By judicious name-dropping, he lands a job in the mailroom of the World Wide Wicket Company. Through a tissue of half-truths and outright lies, he cons just about everybody in the company using a mask of humility and shy smiles. As he hops up the corporate ladder in a series of hilarious moves, everyone can’t help but love him – except for Bud Frump (Alex Allen), the big boss’s nephew, who is stymied in his plans to rise in the company. Finally, Finch draws the attention of CEO J.B. Biggley (Richard Malmos). After all, both went to the same Old Ivy college and are “groundhogs forever.” Up and up – is there no stopping Finch?

 

Cast of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" - Photo by Angela Manke

Everything about this musical is fun – from the uproarious situations to the hilarious lines, from the beautifully staged dance routines to the clever songs – which include some old standby hits like “I Believe in You.” Even though the basic concept is now dated – after all, over 60 years have passed since Mead’s original idea – this lively and energetic production retains the ability to involve the audience. No attempts have been made to modernize the show. Costumes and cute wigs hold fast to the flavor of the 1960’s, with historic underpinnings making the show a historical classic musical – rather than a dated retread.

 

Kelly Marie Hennessey - Photo by Angela Manke

Director Danny Michaels has succeeded in keeping the history – and the life – in this musical, as have musical director Steven Applegate and director/choreographer Orlando Alexander. An excellent cast proves that something really good never fades away; they manage to make this a fresh and invigorating peak at the past. Cain does a marvelous job of getting the audience to root for the picaresque hero, Finch. His love interest, Rosemary (Kelly Marie Hennessey) adds to the spice, as does Biggley’s secret mistress, Hedy LaRue (Danielle Lebens).

 

Alex Allen - Photo by Angela Manke

Without Jeremy Williams’ lighting, Alex Mackyol’s sound, and Angela Manke’s costumes, there would be no musical. Their talents enhance this classic musical. The entire production team deserves kudos for a job well done. Glendale Theatre has again achieved a high spirited, excellent revival of an “oldie but goodie.”

 

Ensemble Cast - Photo by Angela Manke

HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING runs through June 25, 2016, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 3 p.m. on two Sundays (May 15 and May 22). The Glendale Centre Theatre is located at 324 N. Orange Street, Glendale, CA 91203. Tickets are $32 (adult), $25 (senior), and $20 (children). For information and reservations, call 818-244-8481 or go online at www.glendalecentretheatre.com.

 

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