Broadway Center Stage @ The Kennedy Center
Choreography by Denis Jones
Set Design by Scott Pask
Lighting Design by Peter Kaczorowski
Costume Design by Amy Clark
Sound Design by Brian Ronan
“The Kennedy Center advertises its Broadway Center Stage series as presenting shows in a “semi-staged concert format.” For Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, that claim is too modest. What the enthusiastic full house at the Eisenhower Theater saw Thursday night was a fully realized production of a classic show from the “Golden Age” of Broadway musicals. Every aspect of the show – acting, singing, dancing, costumes, set, lighting – was brilliantly executed. The show was a hit from the beginning, garnering several Tonys and a Pulitzer as well as a four-year first run and a movie version. The Kennedy Center production makes it easy to see why.” - DC Metro Theatre Arts
““How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” at the John F. Kennedy Center is a delightful, high-energy production that can hardly be described as “semi-staged.” A fabulous cast and first-rate production team bring the whimsical and flirtatious story to life in the ample, but intimate space of the Eisenhower Theater.” - MD Theatre Guide
“This production is perfect for audiences wanting to let loose and have a little fun. Great music, great performers, a bunch of retro comedy - what more could you ask for?” - Broadwayworld
“Directed by Marc Bruni…this show is still winning over audiences when it comes to content and presentation!” - Theatre Bloom
Marc’s Director’s Note:
Welcome to Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows’ 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying- based on Edward “Shepherd” Mead’s 1952 book of the same name. Writing his satirical “Dastard’s Guide to Fame and Fortune,” Mead drew from his own experiences climbing the ranks of a large advertising agency, and his skewering of corporate culture in the form of a “self-help” book immediately resonated with casual readers and businesspeople alike. The original Broadway production proved even more popular, running over four years and accruing numerous prizes, including seven Tony Awards. Though almost 60 years have passed, the piece's uproarious commentary on corporate America feels surprisingly resonant in 2018 - an indication of how little has actually changed since Loesser and Burrows first put pen to paper. In an increasingly corporate America focused on success, fame, and power, it serves as a reminder that the system is not the impenetrable behemoth most make it out to be.
Directors of revivals from the golden age of musical comedy often find themselves troubleshooting when contemporary sensibilities clash with worldviews from a time of different sexual politics. At first glance, How to Succeed might seem to have similar problems: After all, set in the sexist Mad Men era of “good old boys” behaving badly, it was written originally to appeal to the “tired businessman.” Yet, though still a product of its time, How to Succeed shines its satirical spotlight directly on the issue in a refreshingly progressive break from the tacit approval of other shows of the period. A bold statement in 1961, it both identifies sexual harassment as a common workplace occurrence and offers real consequences for transgressors: "They fired him like a shot/The day the fellow forgot/A secretary is not a toy." Even now, in a world with daily #MeToo revelations, it’s still clear not everyone is subject to that same rule.
Further, though the women of the piece are not afforded an equal opportunity to climb the corporate ladder, they are also not left without agency within their circumstances. Rosemary’s burning ambition takes the form of a romantic relationship, but we don't believe for a second that she will ultimately be "happy to keep his dinner warm." She and Finch share a willingness to work the system to get what they want - perhaps that's why they find each other and fall in love. From the start, Rosemary inherently understands how the building works and how to navigate the sticky wicket of 1960s corporate culture in a way that Finch still needs to learn. Perhaps she even might put that knowledge into a book someday!
Ultimately, the brilliance of How to Succeedlies in its timeless understanding of human nature within the corporate system and its sparklingly witty Frank Loesser score. As we watch Finch lie and charm his way up the ladder without repercussions - ultimately setting his eye on politics - perhaps the real accomplishment of the show is not as a time capsule but as a prophecy.