The American dream of corporate success

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If I had reviewed How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying last year before witnessing an idiot bulldoze his way into a presidential position, I would have viewed the musical satire as a harmless, old-fashioned joke.

Although How To Succeed in Business satirizes 1960s corporate culture, its cold-bloodedness has not diminished with time. Foote in the Door Productions’ season opener is very real reflection of today’s popular philosophy of rewarding all-consuming ambitions.

While a greed-is-good styled message is inherent throughout, Frank Loesser’s zippy sugarcoated lyrics create a light-hearted ambience that makes the lesson palatable.

In this production, the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed J. Pierrepont Finch, a former window-washer accepts an entry-level position at the World Wide Wickets Corporation.

But he doesn’t plan to stay in that position for long. Ponty, as he is quickly nicknamed, religiously follows a how-to guide on climbing the corporate ladder. In Ponty’s book, education, experience and ability are insignificant when well-placed flattery can take you further.

Within a week, the charming anti-hero enjoys a meteoric and ruthless rise to the top. He finds himself in the right place at the right time and ingratiates himself with influential co-workers while being extremely adept at setting up co-workers to be fired. And everyone helplessly watches as he steamrolls to the top.

Frank Keller as Ponty Finch looks and sounds every bit the charlatan complete with a lopsided grin and twinkle in his eye. Keller is a talented singer and injects Ponty with just enough warmth and charm to make him likeable and enough shadiness to make him corrupt.

While Ponty blindly follows his unethical career-making bible, he appears oblivious to Rosemary Pilkington (Ruth Wong-Miller), a secretary who is set on marrying him. Why Rosemary wants to marry someone so disconnected from individuals around him is never explained.

However, by chasing him Wong-Miller reveals her comedic chops and a beautiful voice that rises to the occasion in Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm and I Believe in You.

Ponty’s main nemesis is Bud Frump, a pathological whiner who throws tantrums when he can’t get his way. Short on strategic smarts, Bud can barely hold down a job in the mailroom and relies on family connections to stay employed. His uncle is J.B. Biggley (Russ Farmer), the company CEO.

Morinville raised Rory Turner, a versatile actor who lends his talents to both leading and character roles, grabs the spotlight as the lazy, snooty nephew that despite all his finagling to get Ponty ousted just can’t seem to catch a break.

Director Adam Kuss has pulled together a very strong cast with great chemistry. Some of the outstanding performances include St. Albert’s Cait Tazzer, as Smitty the streetwise secretary and Kathleen Sera as the “bubble-headed tomato” Hedy LaRue.

Elements of sexism pop up in the dialogue and certain tunes, such as A Secretary is Not a Toy and Cinderella Darling. Kuss makes no apology for the absence of political correctness.

He simply plays it as a three-hour joke, one that the audience is delighted to go along with especially during the showstopper Coffee Break.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying runs Nov. 16 to 19 at Campus St. Jean Auditorium.

Review

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Foote in the Door Productions
Runs Nov. 16 to 19
Campus St. Jean Auditorium
8406 – 91 St.
Tickets: Call 780-420-1757 or tixonthesquare.ca

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About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.