Take ambition, guile, and romance; mix vigorously with satire, humor and upbeat music, and you have a recipe for a successful musical. However, without that extra dash of talent it cannot rise.
Talent definitely rose to the occasion in the Sayville Middle School musical production of HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING thanks to the proper blending of ingredients: a cast of strong actors, great music, comic timing, hardworking stage crew, and visually entertaining staging (including amusing elevator scenes, which as a bonus, had audiences in suspense over the “sliding” doors.)
Set in the mid 1960s, the musical opens with J. Pierpont Finch (ambitiously played and sung with engaging charm by the talented Jamie Baio) aspiring to rise on the corporate ladder of the World Wide Wicket Company from his lowly job as a window washer. A brash young man, Finch follows a very insightful HOW TO BOOK: “How to—apply for a job; How to—advance from the mail room… How to—develop executive style,” and maneuvers deftly through the system, not only making the right contacts and impressions with well-connected individuals, but also with one of the secretaries, Rosemary Pilkington.
Blinded by love at first sight, Rosemary (Sweet voiced Kate Donohue perfectly personified the smitten heroine) has sights on “Ponty’s” future success. “He’ll do well, I can tell,” Rosemary sings in Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm. “So it isn’t a moment too soon, To plan on my life in New Rochelle, The wife of my darling tycoon.” Unfortunately, Rosemary is pursuing a man too distracted by his drive and focus on success to acknowledge her.
According to Finch’s HOW TO BOOK, the struggle to the top begins in the Mail Room.
Proud of his quarter-of-a century service in the Mail Room, Mr. Twimble (great praise for Jonathan Nolan for conveying both jaw-dropping character and song with big style), is rather a cautionary tale for Finch: “Cause I play it the company way, Executive policy is by me OK.” His philosophy is absolutely contrary to the upwardly mobile guidance of Finch’s HOW TO BOOK.
Neither does the BOOK recommend nepotism. This doesn’t stop the boss’s conniving nephew Bud Frump (delightfully devilish as delivered by the always-in-character and hilarious Luke Rosario) from trying. Frump banks on his bloodlines for the fast track to the executive office, and as Finch’s true nemesis, plots to topple the rising executive with trickery.
The World Wide Wicket Company’s bombastic, BIG boss, Jasper Biggley (dynamically portrayed in grandiose style by the booming, yet equally crooning voice of Dylan Finder), wields his absolute power with lashing snarls and censored expletives. Although his bullying annihilates all who disagree with him, Biggley has a soft spot for knitting, for his alma mater Old Ivy, and for a certain lady named Hedy LeRue (magnificently played with charisma, allure, and cigarette girl “finesse” by a gifted singer and actress in Emily Llewellyn.)
Business politics aside, only spunky Smitty (Dara Scolnick balanced great acting with wonderful singing as Rosemary’s true friend) has a grip on reality, whether fighting for justice during the coffee break or matchmaking destined sweethearts Ponty and Rosemary after a long day in the office.
Performing musical numbers that included How To, Coffee Break, Been a Long Day, A Secretary is Not a Toy, Grand Old Ivy, Paris Original, Rosemary, I Believe in You, and the Brotherhood of Man, the cast and supporting ensemble were a colorful variety of “suits” and “skirts” who animated each scene. The businessmen Gatch, Matthews, Jenkins, Tackaberry, Johnson/Wally Womper, Peterson, Chairman of the Board Wally Womper, and especially the “agreeable” personnel manager Mr. Bert Bratt were well played by cast members Dan Palma, Chloe Dymek, Alex Pittari, Dea Ahlgrim, James Velazquez (in the two parts), Sam LoGrippo, and Harrison Bench; while among the “skirts,” the hierarchy of power began at the top with the Biggley’s influential secretary Miss Jones (Moira Mahoney), assisted by Miss Krumholtz (Emily Osterloh) and the other ladies in the office comprised of the ensemble chorus and dancers.
Stepping last minute into the role of the new advertising manager Mr. Benjamin Burton Daniel Ovington, Musical Director Mr. Fred Diekmann surprised everyone with his onstage presence and his enthusiasm for the part, bringing down the house with laughter.
Kudos to Producer/Director Jeff Hoffman; Musical Director Fred Diekmann and the fabulous orchestra; along with Sound: Andrew Giammalvo; Lighting: Steve Hailey; Artwork: Cora Sparwasser; Set Construction: Ken VanEssendelft; Costumes:* Denise Baio; Props: Leona Dushnick; Sayville High School volunteers as Assistant to the Directors: Meghan Gunther, Katya Sparwasser, Alex Sneddon; and the amazing crew who despite the double-punch interruptions of Superstorm Sandy and a Nor’easter, proved that the show can succeed with everyone really trying.
* In the Paris Original number, fifty-four actresses appear on stage in identical dresses. “These fifty-four middle school girls,” explained Costume chairperson Mrs. Denise Baio, “are donating their dresses from that scene to Mrs. Betty Lou Fahie, who will use the fabric to make pillows for the Breast Cancer Coalition as gifts to breast cancer patients.”