By Greg Zeman
The gin and cigarette culture of the early 1960’s business world takes center stage when an office transforms into a musical playground in the City College Arts and Music department play “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying,” at the Diego Rivera Theater.
The musical comedy by Frank Loesser tells the story of the window washer J. Pierpont Finch, played with energetic bravura by Iain Gray, who wants to be a successful executive. By following the steps of his trusted manual, “How to Succeed at Business,” Finch, with a lot of ambition, a little deception and absolutely no business experience, manages to get hired at World Wide Wicket Industries.
The irrepressible enthusiasm Gray brings to the main character captures Finch’s eagerness to climb the corporate ladder.
“I’ve never done the romantic lead, I’ve done character roles mostly, so this is a really new thing,” Gray said.
Another outstanding actor is Spencer Peterson, who plays Bud Frump, the catty, whining nephew of company president J.B Biggley. Peterson invokes equal parts trickster and tattling toddler in his animated portrayal of the nepotistic counterpoint to the self-starter Finch.
“I just really loved taking the role of Bud Frump,” Peterson said. “Frump is one of those great, a classic gay villains and it was so much fun to play him.”
Not all major players on stage are men. Megan Dueck plays Rosemary, the shrinking violet immediately infatuated with Finch. Rosemary’s nervousness and naiveté underscore the satirical aspects of songs like, “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm.”
The sultry Hedy La Rue, J.B Biggley’s extramarital interest who also happens to work at the company, is played with bubbly relish by a blonde, wig wearing Geneva Holloman.
“I did Cabaret last year…this is my first character part I felt like I owned,” Holloman said.
Patrick Toebe’s crisp, minimalist set design captures the gaudy optimism of the corporate culture in broad, horizontal strokes of orange, white and blue. A city skyline looms over desks, elevators and and the asymmetrical, checkerboard floor of 1960’s office building stage set.
A brilliant performance by the orchestra, conducted by Michael Shahani, underscores the overall polish and professionalism of the cast and inspired praise and interest from students attending the April 18 performance.“I liked it a lot, I’m actually thinking about trying out for something now,” said City College Issac Dana.
When asked about the positive reception of the show, director and choreographer Deborah Shaw said, “It’s just a great cast.” (249)