First, find yourself a job in the mailroom of a large corporation, one big enough to ensure that no one really knows who you are or what you do. Then launch yourself out of that mailroom with a special blend of hard work, feigned humility and verbal dexterity. Pick up a few skills along the way, like knitting and chanting the fight song for your boss’ alma mater. Don’t forget to stay out of romantic entanglements, even when you’re in love. (Or especially when you’re in love.) Follow these simple rules and you’ll be sitting behind a desk bigger than your bathroom in no time.
These lessons come courtesy of Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the midcentury musical about a window washer who climbs to the top of the World Wide Wicket Company.
J. Pierrepont Finch is that window washer, and with some sage narration from the author of a self-help book, Finch is soon out of his coveralls and into a suit and tie. Along his rise to glory he battles Bud Frump, the nephew of company president J.B. Biggley. He also meets pretty Rosemary Pilkington, who spends the majority of the show trying to snag the young upstart.
Landmark Musicals presents this local version of the Broadway hit, and, as usual, the theater company has put together a show that’s charming, fun and solidly acted. Joey Côté has the star role as Finch, and he’s absolutely perfect for it. Côté is boyish and exudes enthusiasm. With a double-fisted dose of smooth singing and dancing abilities along with seemingly effortless acting chops, Côté could play this role on any stage. The show’s program states that this is Côté’s last theatrical production, and that seems like an awful loss. I hope the man reconsiders.
Opposite Côté is Aleah Waldron as Rosemary. Waldron plays her character with a winning mix of naivety and domestic ambition. She’s got an excellent set of pipes and delivers some of the best musical numbers of the night. Waldron and Côté are a great pair with matched abilities, and together they bring the production out of community theater territory. (As a very happy side note, there was a surprise on opening night when Waldron’s boyfriend got up on stage after the show and proposed—to which she answered, “You bet!” Congratulations, Aleah!)
The other main actors have talent as well, with Michael Finnegan delivering an excellent Biggley, Leonard Hughes performing the sniveling Frump with beautiful comic timing and Lisette Herrera being as luscious as all get out as Biggley’s mistress, Hedy La Rue. Special mention should also be given to Rebecca Turiciano, who plays Rosemary’s friend Smitty and who also knows how to command a stage.
On opening night, the show ran pretty smoothly, with only a handful of minor mic issues and some small pacing problems in a couple of dance numbers. The set and costume design are both fantastic, with “Mad Men”-esque suits and a myriad of custom-made (or at least custom-modified) furniture pieces. Joined with some snappy lighting tricks, it all makes for a great presentation. When you add in the live orchestra, How to Succeed becomes a well-honed musical.