It’s a Perfect Time to Learn HOW TO SUCCEED…

It’s a Perfect Time to Learn HOW TO SUCCEED…

Daniel Radcliffe as J. Pierrepont FinchTurn on the television, glance at fashion magazines or theatre marquees, and it seems that the sixties are back in swing. And Sunday night, HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT EVEN TRYING premieres at Broadway’s Al Hirschfeld Theatre in New York. The production stars Daniel Radcliffe in his Broadway musical debut as J. Pierrepont Finch, and feature newcomer Rose Hemingway as his love interest, Rosemary Pilkington.

HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING is a Tony Award-winning musical based on the eponymous satirical self-help book by Shepherd Mead. A musical parody of 1960's corporate America, the show traces the meteoric rise of ambitious window washer J. Pierrepont Finch, who zooms to the top of the World Wide Wickets company. He climbs from the mailroom to the boardroom through a combination of brown-nosing, occasional manipulation, and following the instructions of his guidebook. During his journey up the corporate ladder, Finch faces the perils of the boss’ obsequious nephew, the “company man” who toes the line, the boss’ treacherously attractive mistress, caffeine addiction, and the hazards of falling in love. A full plot synopsis can be found here.

HOW TO SUCCEED features a score by Frank Loesser with a book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert. The original 1961 production earned seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Author and Best Score, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Robert Morse earned a Tony Award for his performance as J. Pierrepont Finch.

Welcome to the Sixties

Sixties motifs have recently appeared throughout pop culture. Even the latest GRAMMY Awards featured a doo-wop number by Bruno Mars and Cee Lo Green’s Motown-style groove. Today’s audiences are familiar with the sounds, styles and themes of the decade, which makes it an opportune time for a production.

The television show “Mad Men” is about a top exec in the sixties trying to keep all the ambitious younger men beneath him, but HOW TO SUCCEED… focuses on the strivings of the guy on the outside, a window washer. This Cinderella story boldly parodies the typical American narrative of success. Audiences familiar with PROMISES, PROMISES will recognize many similar themes in HOW TO SUCCEED… Though Finch never offers up his apartment and manages to stay one step ahead of the office intrigues, his character is similar to Chuck Baxter, another junior executive trying to make it to the top in the 60s. Yet unlike other, glossier glorifications of 1960’s corporate culture, HOW TO SUCCEED... is delightfully irreverent as it reveals the faults in the world of big business.

In the same way that HAIRSPRAY satirizes race-relations in the 60s, HOW TO SUCCEED... tackles the illusion of corporate success—if you work hard and follow the rules, you’ll reach the top. HOW TO SUCCEED... might also strike a familiar chord with fans of the late 70s/early 80s musical 9 TO 5. Despite decade differences between the two shows, themes of office politics, sexism, and the compromises necessary to climb the corporate ladder remain unchanged.

Fans of television’s “The Office” or films like Office Space and people in corporate environments will also resonate with the workplace language, situational humor, caffeine dependency and general humor. This beloved show is also gaining new life and fresh relevance with the recent decline of many American corporate giants.

The current revival is just one more reason to produce HOW TO SUCCEED… Other cast members of this revival include Tammy Blanchard (Louise in the 2003 GYPSY revival) as Hedy LaRue, the mistress of the boss J.B. Biggley (played by John Larrouquette of television’s “Night Court”), Rob Bartlett (MORE TO LOVE) as Twimble, Christopher J. Hanke (CRY BABY) as Biggley’s nephew Bud Frump, and Mary Faber (AMERICAN IDIOT) as Smitty. CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper will be recorded as the voice of the narrator, following in fellow journalist Walter Cronkite’s steps. The musical was last revived on Broadway in 1995, starring Matthew Broderick as Finch and Megan Mullaly as Rosemary.  This revival will be directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford, who also helmed the recent production of PROMISES, PROMISES—another 1960s corporate romp—and will officially open March 27.

A Sure Success

Not only does HOW TO SUCCEED… have a ready-made audience, it’s also easy to produce. This show is simple to do, with a minimal set; most of HOW TO SUCCEED… takes place inside the World Wide Wickets office building. A cast of about 20 does call for several strong male characters but the ensemble can easily be expanded to work for large school groups. Costumes can come straight from the thrift shop, with vintage suits, pencil skirts and other period attire.

Although HOW TO SUCCEED... is wry and sarcastic, it does demonstrate the value of hard work and creativity. J. Pierrepont Finch contrasts greatly with the lazy, whiny Bud Frump, who relies on his personal connections for promotion, and the staunch “company man,” who lacks ambition or independent thought.  Young audiences and performers will have an opportunity to discuss/learn about gender roles as the show highlights the sexism of the 60s workplace. The blatant sexual harassment is handled with wit and humor and is a good conversation starter with high school students (see “A Secretary is not a Toy.”)

Our Great Loesser Love

As mentioned previously, the score was written by Frank Loesser, who also wrote well-known shows like GUYS AND DOLLS and THE MOST HAPPY FELLA. Loesser started writing lyrics during the Depression before moving to Hollywood and working on films. One of his most popular songs is the 1949 Oscar-winning holiday classic, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” After World War II, Loesser was approached by Broadway producers and his theatre career was born. In addition to being a composer/lyricist, in 1952, Loesser and orchestrator Don Walker transformed a fledgling business into what is now known throughout the world as "MTI.” So all of us here at Music Theatre International have a special fondness for Loesser’s works.

Licensing and Community

  • To get information about licensing or to hear SOUND CLIPS from the show, click here.

  • To see VIDEOS, PHOTOS or get information about COMMUNITY RELATED RENTALS for the show click here to visit MTI Showspace.