Last night I caught Clovis High School’s opening night production of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. This musical has become a favorite of mine for its smart writing and comical riff on the corporate world. When given the opportunity, I will absolutely buy a ticket to anyone doing this production. Also, I feel that the leading character of J. Pierrepont Finch is one of the few characters in musical theatre that are written to be played a very specific way without much wiggle room to interpret. Of course, directors and those who are cast in this role can play Finch their own way; but only a small window of artisitic license is given since the lines are quite to the point. Clovis High has done a marvelous job with their performance of the Pulitzer winning production, and it seemed like they did it without even trying! (laughs….anyone?….okay.)
How To Succeed… is a Pulitzer Prize winning musical that has won Tonys in its prior Broadway stagings. We are introduced to window washer J. Pierrepont Finch who finds a book that will help him get a job and climb the corporate ladder. The “Voice” of the book narrates Finch through out his pursuit of being the top businessman. Along the way, Finch meets his fair share of helpers and hurters. Whether it’s J.B. Biggley who is the president of World Wide Wickets; Biggley’s slimy, whiny nephew Bud Frump, or the absolutely adorable Rosemary Pinkleton; Finch soon figures out just how to get exactly what he wants. With the cleverly written book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert, the riffs and satirical material on how the world of corporate businesses work, How To Succeed… is a funny, relateable show whether you work in a big business or not.
Austin Kincade was given the nod to play Finch, and I was very impressed with this young man’s abilities on stage. Kincade balances animated enthusiasm well with realistic nuance to give the audience the slick, intentionally deceiving Finch as he climbs the corporate ladder. Playing well opposite him is a memorable Bekah Martinez (Rosemary) who sings well in her solo, “Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm.” These two two made for a fun couple as they accurately demonstrated their driven personalities; Finch for his career, and Rosemary for Finch. They both led an endearing rendition of the Act 1 finale “Rosemary.”
The two supporting characters that I could not keep my eyes off of were freshman Chris-Ortiz Belcher (Biggley) and the hilarious Ridge Riley (Bud Frump). Belcher is an enjoyable Biggley who takes stage well and sings even better, specifically in “Old Ivy” opposite a well-tuned Kincade. Riley has comic timing down to an absolute T. He never hogged the stage, but was an infallible example of making a supporting role stand strong amongst the other roles and ensemble. Congratulations to these two boys.
I relished at Susan Kehler’s direction of this show. She had such a great vision and prepared the high school students well. She used the ensemble effectively and staged a very “busy” looking office which works perfectly. There was fluidity and intention with her the staging that I greatly appreciated. Debby Mennucci’s choreography was good overall; however I feel “Brotherhood of Man” could have had some more power to it. How To Succeed… plays through October 20th at the Clovis MET. Support this local high school production and maybe you’ll figure some new ways to get ahead in your own business!