HOW TO SUCCEED in Theatre!

by Lesley Grigg

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. 

Rosemary is not happy with all of the attention given to fellow secretary Hedy LaRue in Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre's production of HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING. From left: Joan Zalot as Rosemary Pilkington, Michael Zweig as J. Pierrepont Finch, Meg Waldowski as Hedy LaRue and Paul Waldowski as Mr. Bratt.

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.  

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
Langhorne, PA

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Matt S April 5, 2011 - 6:28 am

With all due respect to you Lesley, but I think you missed the mark with your review. I know, it’s your opinion, but I am one to disagree.

I have been coming to shows by Neshaminy Valley for the past ten years and I have to say that this show ranks up there as one of my favorites that they have done. It was funny, well paced, and visually entertaining. Yes, Ms. Miller, Mr. Frenkel, and Ms. Waldowski all gave strong performances but you neglected to highlight some other stand-outs.

Joan Zalot was charming as Rosemary Pilkington. And when she sang you could truly feel her passion growing for Finch.

Ken Marblestone, after last year’s great portrayal as Benny Southstreet, portrayed JB Biggley as mix between hard-nosed businessman, soft-hearted with Hedy, and proud college alumnus with Finch.

And finally, Michael Zweig, as Finch, did a tremendous job. It is one of the toughest roles in musical theater and he did a great job of performing it. Whether it was interacting with the other characters, or singing one of the many songs he has, Mr. Zweig’s performance was believable and enjoyable. When he sang “I Believe In You” his voice filled the theater. And then “Brotherhood of Man” brought down the house as he got the whole company charged up for the rousing company number.

Again Lesley, you are entitled to your opinion, but I strongly urge others to spread the word about How To Succeed. This is a show not to be missed.

Congrats NVMT!

Lesley April 8, 2011 - 1:22 pm

Matt, thank you for your comments, and I’m sorry if you think this review suggests the show wasn’t well done, since it was, as the title mentions. Obviously the leads gave great performances, they probably wouldn’t have landed the roles if they didn’t. I always like to point out the stand out performances of the supporting actors who don’t always get the recognition they deserve. I might not have mentioned every detail, so thanks again for elaborating.


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