Walking into Neshaminy High School’s auditorium, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia as flashbacks from my time on that same stage flooded over me. Especially since HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING was one of the musicals I performed in high school as well. I felt so grown up sitting on the other side looking in. The production grew up as well, since everything from the sets to the actors seemed more accomplished.
From the window washing platform hanging from the rafters to the marble covered lobby of World Wide Wickets, complete with working elevators that magically opened without even having to push a button, the ever changing set pieces and backdrops did their part to transform each scene. However, the occasional rocking of backdrops and mic static cracked the illusion a bit.
In the first scene we meet a young, ambitious window washer, J. Pierrepont Finch, played by Michael Zweig. Early on, we learn of his plan to succeed in business, without really trying, from the book of the same name that never leaves his side. Finch could charm the pants off the President, but it takes a little more manipulating in the world of wickets since the big boss at WWW, J.B. Biggley, played by Ken Marblestone, comes off as no-nonsense in the beginning of the play.
Finch has no problem charming office secretary, Rosemary Pilkington, played by Joan Zalot, who, after just meeting the go-getter, starts planning their life together in New Rochelle. Rosemary draws the audience into her fantasy world as she dreamily croons about keeping Finchy’s dinner warm.
We’re snapped out of the dream by a rainbow of colors and hysteria created by the office staff and a lack of caffeine. During this coffee break, we see how coordinated the staff is in song and dance technique, and how important coffee is, especially to co-workers Smitty, played by Aimee Miller, and Bud Frump, played by Sam Frenkel. These two lead, and sometimes scream, their way through the coffee deprived group and show their true talent for performing. Miller could be mistaken for Midler (Bette Midler) at times, with her wide smile, heady performance, and divine air about her. Frenkel was anything but frumpy, especially when he would release his excitement into flying leaps across the stage.
Another character whose presence resulted in excitement was Miss Hedy LaRue, played by Meg Waldowski. With a bat of her doe eyes and purse of her lips, she could have the entire office wrapped around her perfectly manicured finger. She might not be the brightest fluorescent light in the office, but she can turn J.B’s low booming, authoritative voice into a sweet sing-songy serenade.
For the remainder of the play, we wait to see when and if Finch’s plans would backfire, and if you really can mix business with pleasure. While it was a pleasure to watch this business explode into song and dance routines throughout their workday, I would have liked to get a better view of the only performance free presentation Finch delivered in Act II, but his board was blocked by poor blocking. Since this was the only scene in the boardroom, I was waiting for Biggley to turn Trump and tell Finch he’s FIRED.
In a play filled with smart schemes, witty business banter and colorful office romances, the NVMT cast taught us how to succeed in putting on an entertaining play without really trying.
HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING
Book by Abe Burrows and Willie Gilbert
Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Directed by Stephen Casey
April 2 – 16, 2011
Neshaminy High School
2001 Old Lincoln Highway