Theatre / How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

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A bit of musical theatre written by Abe Burrows, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, which was first staged in 1961. It's based on a book by Shepherd Mead, which had the subtitle "The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune." The show takes a similar tone.

The story starts out with a kid named J. Pierrepont Finch, a window-washer at the World Wide Wicket company (no, that's not a Stealth Pun, this was The '60s). He's reading from the eponymous book, quotes from which are often provided by a disembodied Narrator. After a Crash-Into Hello with the president of the company, Finch gets a proper job. Now, with only advice from the book, Indy Ploys, and a Twinkle Smile to aid him, Finch must work his way up the corporate ladder, with the help and/or opposition of (amongst others): Bud Frump, nephew of WWW current president J.B. Biggley; Femme Fatale Hedy LaRue, who is having an affair with Biggley but causes instant attraction from just about any male character; Rosemary Pilkington, his Love Interest; and his own plans and schemes, which have a tendency to Go Horribly Right.

The Movie version starring Robert Morse, Rudy Vallee, and Sammy Smith (reprising their respective roles of Finch, Mr. Biggly, and Mr. Twimble/Wally Whomper from the Broadway original) came out in '67. The show was revived on Broadway in '95 with Matthew Broderick as Finch and Walter Cronkite reading the book, for which Broderick won a Lead Actor Tony. Its 50th-anniversary revival in 2011 starred Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame. In what may be a Casting Gag, Radcliffe was replaced by Darren Criss, of Glee and A Very Potter Musical, in January 2012 for a two-week run, to be replaced again by Nick Jonas.


This musical contains examples of the following:

  • Affectionate Parody: "Rosemary" is one of "Maria" from West Side Story — not only do they sound the same and involve (roughly) the same name, but Finch has the same overreaction that Tony does... without even getting a kiss!
  • Brainless Beauty: Hedy LaRue.
  • Brick Joke: Venezuela. When the head of Finch's department, Mr. Gatch, is caught with Hedy and Finch takes over the office, someone calls and asks where Gatch went. Finch replies that he's been transferred to an out-of-town office, and concludes the call with "Venezuela!". And when Hedy corners him in J.B.'s office, she hits on him and says that he's going places, to which he replies, "yeah, Venezuela!"
  • Butt-Monkey: Bud Frump, the CEO's nephew.
  • Delusions of Eloquence: "It is I whom am late."
  • The Ditz: Hedy
  • Double Vision: The parts of Mr. Twimble and Wally Whomper are usually played by the same actor.
  • Dresses the Same: "Paris Original" takes this to its logical extent by having all the secretaries walk into a company party wearing the same gown.
  • Faux to Guide: The titular guide.
  • Femme Fatale: Hedy.
  • First Girl Wins: Rosemary.
  • Football Fight Song: "Grand Old Ivy", sung by Finch and Biggley as Finch is pretending he went to Biggley's alma mater.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Slightly justified, since it is the sixties, but still. Finch realizes he's in love with Rosemary and proposes to her on the spot. Of course, then it's then subverted by Hedy showing up and Rosemary leaving Finch almost immediately, so... (Of course, then that's subverted by Rosemary coming back in to chase Hedy off and kissing Finch again.)
  • Gender-Neutral Narrator
  • Gold Digger: All of the women, as exemplified by "Cinderella, Darling".
  • Gospel Revival Number: "Brotherhood Of Man".
  • Grande Dame: Mr. Biggley's secretary, Miss Jones, has some affinities with the type.
  • Guile Hero: Finch, Finch, Finch.
  • Hello, Nurse!: Hedy
  • Here We Go Again: The ending has Frump now as a window-washer, now discovering and reading the titular book.
  • "I Am Great!" Song: "I Believe in You", the first version, where Finch sings it to himself.
  • Love Epiphany: "Rosemary". Strangely, Finch has this while kissing another woman.
  • Male Gaze: Hedy inspires them.
  • Manipulative Bastard: FINCH. And also Frump, but he's... not quite as successful.
  • The Matchmaker: Smitty, for Rosemary and Finch.
  • Meganekko: Smitty.
  • Mickey Mousing: "Gotta Stop That Man".
    • Specifically, the orchestra imitates the sound of an electric razor by playing the tune on kazoos.
  • Mirror Monologue: Finch sings "I Believe In You" to his reflection in the executive washroom mirror.
  • Must Have Caffeine: "Coffee Break"
  • Named After Somebody Famous: He's not just Pierrepont Finch, he's J. Pierrepont Finch.
  • Nepotism: Budd Frump; bonus points for actually being a nephew (the root of the word "nepotism").
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: Both played straight and inverted. The role of Finch involves as much acting as singing, not to mention some dancing, and skill in one can compensate for lack of ability in the other. This is part of why it's a popular show for high-school theatre (or amongst film actors trying to break into Broadway).
  • The Quiet One: Miss Jones, until "Brotherhood of Man."
  • Reassigned To Venezuela: The fate of anyone whom Mr. Biggley finds with Hedy.

Alternative Title(s): How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

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