How To Succeed – Second Story Repertory Production

Event: How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying
Date: February 28, 2013
Run: February 8-March 3, 2013
Location: Redmond, WA @ Second Story Repertory

I’ve never been to the Second Story Repertory Theatre before so I decided to tag along with my brother to check it out since How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying is a pretty cute show. The theatre is located on the second level of the Redmond Town Center’s outdoor mall. If you’re a ticket stub collector like me, be sure to buy your tickets at the box office or via Goldstar. Buying online through their website gets you put onto a list. The lobby was small, but it does have a concession stand.

I’ll admit it. My expectations for this show were pretty low. It’s a small theatre and I kind of assumed it’s just a step up from school productions. In a way it is, but it was better than I thought it would be. The theatre itself sits about 200 people, but it wasn’t sold out. Actually, the people seated next to us left after the first act. I wasn’t sure if it was because they disliked the show, they thought it was supposed to be an actual seminar in how to succeed in business, and/or a language barrier.

The show is a bit sexist since it takes place in the late 1950’s early 1960’s so in later revivals of the show they tried to make things more politically correct and offering women empowerment with the “sisterhood.” I’m all for women’s rights and all, but I’m sort of glad this production reverted back to the original songs. I don’t think the arts should be shunned because they’re not politically correct, but rather I think it’s a useful tool to realize how wrong things were back in the day and to see how far we’ve come. It was actually a little humorous in that respect. However, some things in business don’t change I guess?

The music and lyrics are done by Frank Loesser (Guys & Dolls) with the book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gerbert. There is an actual “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” guide book written by Shepherd Mead that inspired this musical. Buy it on Amazon.com if you wish. Let me know how it works out for you.

The basic plot follows a young man named J. Pierrepont Finch (played by Casey Raiha) who decides to give up life as a window washer and work his way up the corporate ladder at the World Wide Wicket Company (I wasn’t quite sure what a wicket was so it turns out to be a small door or grated windows). Finch uses his wily charms and his book to get into the company run by J.B. Biggley (William Hamer), but runs into several situations mostly involving his nemesis Bud Frump (John Huddlestun) who also happens to be Biggley’s nephew. Rosemary Pilkington (Carly Hebert) is his love interest in the story, that is if he ever decides to stop playing his corporate game long enough to notice her. Finch manages to work his way up to vice president of advertising, but the turnover rate of that position is high. Would he be able to impress or get shown the door? I’ll stop here in case you do want the element of surprise by seeing this show or viewing the movie (which I only caught a few minutes of).

The show in itself is a comedy, and overall the actors were good and enthusiastic. However, there were some hammy moments. I also think some audience members laughed a little too hard at some things. The audience also  had some special guests who worked at this and other local theatres so I don’t know if they were trying to “up” things up for them. They were able to get away with a lot of it. I think the most impressive thing to me about the show was the staging. This is a fairly big cast with such a small awkwardly set area. Particularly with the number “I Believe In You” where Finch is dancing with a bunch of other male executives in the bathroom. They have a phone in there? Eww. However, sometimes if the material is strong enough some of the sums of it’s parts don’t really need to be that impressive. Yeah, my mind wandered a bit on how they would do their next production of Rent here. Oh, you know I’m a big fan of Rent. My brother mentioned how I would tear them a new one in my review of that show (like the production at the 5th Avenue) since I seem to be more critical of shows I’m more familiar with and love. We’ll see.

I really don’t remember the pirates advertising campaign in the second act. However, the last time I saw this show was the 1996 touring cast revival. Wow, that was one of my earliest shows. Like with shows like Hello, Dolly! I also forgot how great some of the songs were. Overall, I actually like this production more than my recent attendance to The Music Man. There were some minor gripes about certain jokes being cut out and/or substituted, props, and costumes, but overall things were good with this show.

The program was cute as they made self avatars in place of their headshots probably via the Mad Men website at http://www.amctv.com/madmenyourself/. However, I do wish they kind of went for something more original. Not necessarily a “Paris Original.”

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