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 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.
  • 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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