The Collegian
Sunday, July 12, 2020

'How To Succeed' laughs all the way to the bank

This semester's school play, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," is appropriate given the U.S. economy.

"[It's] a play that tests our ability to step back from the financial crisis and still laugh at it," director Walter Schoen said.

"How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" is a musical written in 1962 by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, Willie Gilbert, and Frank Loesser, based on a book with the same title written by Shepherd Mead.

The play, which opened on April 11, shows an ambitious window-washer who strives to become famous and rich in a world-wide corporation by taking advantage of everything he can.

"I wanted to capture the sense of satire that the play made of the corporate culture in the 1960s," said director Walter Schoen. "Although the corporate culture has gone through many permutations, I think there is a certain mentality in it that hasn't changed."

Since work on the production began last fall, Schoen and the production members have suffered from a lack of people and time. Schoen said that the audition process took a long time since he could not get enough actors, and he still does not have enough backstage crews.

Students' school work and conflicts with other productions in theatre department took away from rehearsal time, but Schoen said he was glad that he got the show up despite a "good deal of difficulties."

"Walter has been amazing in communicating the 1960s humor to all the audiences," said Joe Inscoe, an artist-in-residence with a 30-year acting career who played the role of J. B. Biggley. "Working with the students, some of the most energetic, devoted, hard-working, fun people, has made me feel a lot younger than my 57 years."

Gene Anderson, the chairman of the department of music, played two roles, Twimble and Womper. Anderson, almost 70, said the biggest challenge for him was that he had to sing and dance at the same time.

"I have a new appreciation for anyone who can move and sing and project and so on at the same time," Anderson said.

Matt Plotzker, who played the role of the protagonist, J. Pierrepont Finch, said that becoming skilled at delivering the best performance to the audience had been a huge challenge, but also a huge reward for him.

"I had a lot of lead roles in high school, but I wasn't sure how I could compete in college," Plotzker said. "I just love being in the show, so even if I was in the chorus, even if I had no line, it would be fine with me."

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Adam Ferguson, who played the role of Bud Frump, said that he thought the message of the show was really relevant to the economy. He said that he wanted the audience to laugh at the show, at the same time feeling that relevancy.

The final performance was April 18.

Contact reporter Masato Tsuruta at masato.tsuruta@richmond.edu

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