“How to Succeed in Business” has charming cast and lots of laughs

A standoff between two secretaries that wore the same dress to a business party.


A standoff between two secretaries that wore the same dress to a business party.

State Hornet Staff

What I love about musicals is the fact that they can be bigger and louder than the average movie. “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” does this in spades.

The play tells the story of an ambitious young window washer in the 1960s who rises – in an impossibility only seen on stage – to the top of the World Wide Wicket Company in a matter of a few weeks, thanks to the help of a book and a talent for charm and manipulation.

The show itself is almost like a painting, with its brightly colored set, colorful costumes and a wild cast of characters. Ryan Ritter shines as leading man J. Pierrepont Finch, charming the audience; as well he charms his fellow cast members. Despite the questionable ethics of Finch’s actions, you can’t help but wonder how he’s going to get out of a situation and feel as he does about wanting to succeed.

During intermission, I heard an audience member criticize the sexism of the show, with all the women playing secretaries or mistresses, while the men got to be in charge. Keep in mind that “How to Succeed” was written and preformed in 1962, barely on the threshold of the Feminist Movement. So yes, there are some sexist tendencies. However, characters like Rosemary Pilkington, Finch’s love interest played by Stephanie Zito, makes the most of that position. As she tries to nab the ambitious young Finch, it is clear through her sass and knowledge she is likely just as clever as Finch.

One of the show’s biggest attributes is its ability to be over-the-top funny without you wanting to bang your head against something. Perhaps the biggest example is the memorable character Bud Frump, played by Brad Bong. Bong has such exuberance that you can’t help noticing when he’s on stage. One of the moments that had the audience cracking up almost every time was Frump’s dramatic exits and entrances.

Other memorable characters were the fearsome boss J.B. Biggley, played by Dan Demers, Rosemary’s friend and fellow secretary Smitty, played by Annie Purvis, and Brittni Barger’s ditzy character Hedy LaRue. Yet the cast as a whole brings the show together, giving each character a quirk that seems real even when they’re dancing and singing on the stage.

The musical numbers are fantastic, with excellent music that has an almost jazzy feel. The choreography is very detailed and fun to watch – you can imagine the hours that went into perfecting it. However, there were a couple of numbers – particularly the snazzy “A Secretary is Not a Toy” – where the performers could have been a bit more in time together when dancing.

“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” is an excellent show that is fun, colorful and a does a wonderful job taking you away from reality, even if for a few hours.

Performances are at the University Theatre in Shasta Hall. Show are preformed 8 p.m. on March 14, March 20-21 and March 27-28; at 2 p.m. March 15, 22 and 29; and 6:30 p.m. on March 19 and 26.

Tickets for 6:30 performances are $10 general admission and $7 for children 11 years old and younger. For all other performances, tickets are $15 general admission, $12 for students, seniors and Sac State employees, and $10 for children

Kyrie Eberhart can be reached at [email protected]