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"How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" highlights 1960's Golden Age

"How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" begins April 7 in the Freed Center. (Northern Review photo/Dominic Turnea).

For weeks, Ohio Northern University musical theatre students have rehearsed the numbers, memorized their lines and spent rigorous hours in rehearsal for the spring musical, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” for the first time in the Department of Theatre Arts’s history.  You won’t need a “Coffee Break” for this Pulitzer Prize winning musical, as it’s smart, witty, kinky, and tells an accurate portrayal of the typical business world in the 1960s. 

Cast members are excited to present the production for the campus community tomorrow [Thursday, April 7] at 7:30 p.m. inside the Freed Center for the Performing Arts. Additional performances are offered on Friday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 9 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 for ONU students and can be purchased at the Freed Center’s box office, or here

Whether or not it’s “Been a Long Day,” all are welcome to witness this grand musical directed by ONU’s Assistant Professor of Theatre, Mark Davis.

“This is a winning production in that I have vigorously pursued the chance to showcase the talent of the actors with the joyous character perspectives through the Pulitzer Prize winning text and Tony Award winning score by Mr. Loesser and Mr. Burrows,” Davis said. 

“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” cleverly abbreviated as H2$ by the cast, tells the story of J. Pierrepont Finch (played by Garrett Hill) and his journey climbing to the top of World Wide Wickets (WWW), a company that lies in the busy city of Manhattan. First seen as a window washer, Finch’s book, “The Dastards Guide to Fame and Fortune,” guides him through WWW. With hard work and insight from the lovely secretaries in the office, Finch begins his journey to the top. 

When Finch isn’t low-key flirting with the lovely secretaries, Rosemary (played by Briana Biffath) and Miss Jones (played by Sarah Keune), he is usually rising to the occasion and portraying excellent business ethics and team work. While doing this, his rival, Bud Frump (played by Patrick Plucinsky) is bitterly climbing to the top of the business ladder, as well. As the nephew for Mr. Biggely (played by Tyler Matanick), Bud will call his mother to get what he wants, and will do his very best to be the boss of everyone, regardless of how rude he can be. When asked about his character, Bud, Plucinsky says he has a great time performing the villain of the musical. 

“Naturally, it’s a fantastic time. Bud doesn’t care what other people think of him; he’s a spoiled brat and he knows it, which explains his personality. Nonetheless, he is a fun character to play,” Plucinsky commented. 

The musical highlights the Golden Age of the 1960s. Suits, seduction and secretaries are common at the WWW office. However, many secretaries within the musical also exemplify the ideals of the independent working-woman. One secretary, Miss Krumholtz (played by Hannah Lane), is sassy, bold and doesn’t care what other people think of her. 

“She’s quite a seductress, but is dedicated to the company at the same time; she just wants what’s best for everyone,” Lane said. 

Unexpected romance looms within the offices of WWW, as Rosemary falls head-over-heels for Finch the moment they meet. Her love is obvious, but would Finch pick her over promotions and success? 

Along with Finch and Rosemary, the tough-gritted boss Mr. J.B. Biggely shows his “Heart of Gold” for Hedy LaRue (played by Madeline Chitty), an astoundingly gorgeous woman who aspires to be a great secretary. 

Costumes and set designs are a key accomplishment for H2$. Dan George has designed marvelous pieces of sets for past productions, and this time, there were more elaborate sets to create. From elevators, desks and skyscraper views, George and his team have done a remarkable job in capturing the scenery of the Golden Age. 

“There is a lot of moving scenery in this performance, more than past shows. Many different looks and set changes to be made,” George commented. 

Along with set pieces, costumes were essential for this musical. Michael Swain-Smith, who plays one of the businessmen who works for Mr. Biggely, expresses his thoughts on wearing a business suit while singing and dancing on stage.  

“It’s very interesting to see the cast dance in a 3-piece suit. It’s quite exciting, and really fun for everyone. I’m looking forward to seeing the results,” he adds. 

Additional cast members include: Madline Gish as Smitty; David James Grant as Gatch; Josh Heard as Mr. Bratt; William Lockhard as Wolly Womper; Dr. Malcolm Raeburn Read as the book's narrator; and, Timothy Swaim as Mr. Twimble. 

Chorus members are played by various students in ONU's Department of Theatre Arts. 

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