How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying
Witham Public Hall
23rd to 28th April 2007
When window washer, J Pierrepont Finch, finds a book titled ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ he follows its easy steps in order to climb his way up the corporate business ladder in 1950s New York. At the World Wide Wickets Company he slots into the company machine where no one knows exactly what each other is doing. He catches the eye of secretary, Rosemary, who tells her friend, Smitty, that he is the perfect man for her, and she would be ‘Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm’ at home. Chairman of the Board, JB Biggley, is the boss of the company and his annoying nephew, Bud Frump, attempts to use his family connections to travel up the corporate ladder. Finch begins life in the mailroom under the watchful eye of Mr Trimble, the ultimate ‘company’ man. Finch finds an opportunity to advance from the mail room quickly, to the annoyance of Bud and the other men in the company.
Biggley is having an affair with the sassy Hedy La Rou who demands to work in the office. He finds her a job as a secretary, but the men of the company have to be reminded that ‘a secretary is not a toy’. Rosemary continues to battle to win Finch’s affections, buying herself a new dress in order to impress him at a corporate party. Bud plots to set Finch up, trying to get him in a compromising situation with Hedy so Biggley will fire him. After briefly kissing Hedy, Finch realises that he is indeed in love with Rosemary and the two admit their feelings for each other. Bud swears he will not be beaten.
Some time passes and Rosemary is once again upset with Finch. Smitty and the office girls convince her to stay with him, saying she is an inspiration and a ‘real life fairy tale’. She agrees to stay, and ends up as Finch’s secretary. As Hedy tells Biggley she is leaving him he admits his true feelings and the pair become sincere for the first time. Bud rallies the men in the office against Finch and they plot to bring him down the corporate ladder. As head of advertising Finch actually needs to show some potential and Bud gives him an idea that he knows his uncle will hate. Finch is nervous but sings a love song to himself in the mirror. In a board meeting Finch pitches the idea of a pirate themed treasure hunt to find shares for the company. It ends up going horribly wrong and the business is threatened with closure. Finch once again manages to talk his way out of trouble, rallying the executives together in ‘the Brotherhood of Man’. Finch is made chair of the board and reaffirms his love for Rosemary.
How to Succeed In Business without Really Trying
Witham Amateur Operatic Society
Witham Public Hall
"HOW to succeed in Business (or anything else) without really trying" is a phrase that has now entered the language, but it is rarely used accurately. For J Pierrepoint Finch, the hero of this musical, really is trying. In fact he's trying very hard. Finch wheedles his way up the ladder at World Wide Wickets by keeping ahead of the game. He makes sure the company president finds him in the office first thing in the morning, surrounded by empty coffee cups, as though he has spent all night working. He treats his on-and-off girlfriend appallingly, treads all over his colleagues and eventually even wins over the chairman by alleging that they have a common bond as former window washers.
Yet in Stuart Scott Brown's portrayal, it is difficult not to warm to Finch. He is cheeky rather than criminal, a rascal not a villain. Scott Brown is superb: In a performance that would stand comparison with the Broadway original, he dominates the stage. He sings well, his timing is excellent and he is nimble on his feet.
He is backed by a strong cast, staging and choreography. Stewart Adkins plays the company president as a kind of American version of CJ, Reggie Perrin's boss, while Elisabeth Ladd shows strength of character in the role of Rosemary.
Kathryn Adkins is at her seductive best as the president's bit on the side, while Tim Clarke comes close to stealing the show as the boss's simpering nephew. .
There are strong cameos from Tom Whelan as the chairman and Danny Mullane as the short-lived advertising manager, plus strong singing turns from Sandra Moorhouse as Smitty and Pat Briggs, the secretary who takes centre stage in the finale.
Director Cynthia Stead has put together some neat choreography and competently handles the challenge of organising up to 25 people on stage simultaneously. Musical director Susan Malam produces some original touches in the orchestra pit.
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