Fairmont’s music program plans to succeed with ‘How to Succeed …’


Photo: Drew Fannin

The cast of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” rehearse in the auditorium. The musical focuses on the world of business as one man, following the advice of a book, climbs the ladder to become CEO of a company.

Becoming the head honcho of a big business company requires years of hard work and dedication; that is, unless you have a lovely little book to help expedite the process. This is the premise of Fairmont’s spring musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

The musical focuses on young window washer named J. Pierrepont Finch, who desperately wants to climb the corporate ladder — and fast. Guided by a book of the same name as the musical, Finch begins his endeavor to be CEO of the World Wide Wicket Company. However, his unorthodox and somewhat questionable methods get him in trouble occasionally, leading to confrontations with many hilarious characters, including his love interest, Secretary Rosemary Pilkington.

“When I was doing the read-through for the first time, I was actually laughing out loud even though I was reading it by myself. It’s gonna be really funny,” said sophomore Jesse Herrick, who stars in the lead role as Finch.

Herrick also noted that while a lot of the musical centers on the business world and corporate humor that adults might find more funny, there are just as many funny and awkward scenes to entertain every member of the family.

Senior Dani Carrington, who portrays Finch’s secretary Rosemary, also expressed her enjoyment with the show. While her initial reaction was surprise when the musical was first announced, she says she’s since been fully sold by its comedic and family-friendly nature.

“I think because it’s an older musical, a lot of people think that it’s automatically going to be kind of boring,” said Carrington. “It’s really not. There’s a lot of humor behind it, and a lot of people will think it’s really funny.”

She also pointed out that her favorite part of the show is the uniqueness of each character. Mixing characters like Rosemary, fellow secretaries Smitty and Hedy, and workers of the company like CEO J.B. Biggley, who all have different accents and personalities, is simply comedic gold.

Speaking of characters, one of the big differences between this year’s musical and last year’s is that the cast is even smaller than it has been in past years. Director Matt Koehler says he wanted to do an older musical and was inspired by this show, which was the first in which he performed in college.

“We needed a different type of show, and this is the show we chose,” said Koehler. “There was a definite cutoff point that I knew I had to make, and I felt comfortable making that. I like the smaller cast; it seems a bit more elite.”

He understands that more people can be involved in a production with a larger cast, referencing how in previous years there have been close to 100 cast members.

“Honestly for me, I would rather somebody get a great experience and be exposed onstage more rather than less,” Koehler said.

The cast members say they definitely feel a different dynamic among the smaller number of people.

Herrick says the small size is refreshing. “I like small casts better because you get to know them better. All of these people are my friends because they come from choir and theatre, and I’m involved in both.”

Junior Trevor Ginsberg, who played Shrek last year and this year is Student Production Assistant, says there’s a lot of enthusiasm among the members of the production.

“There’s an energy within the cast this year, and the excitement’s growing a lot,” said Ginsberg. “It’s going to be awesome.”

Carrington has performed with many larger casts over her career and points out some of the differences between large and small productions. “It’s different because it’s a lot easier to deal with,” she said.

There are both benefits and drawbacks to the size of the cast. “A good thing, obviously, is that you can get a lot done faster,” Carrington said. “But, I think it kind of stinks because you don’t build as many relationships as I have in the past. You can’t do as much with a smaller cast as you could with a bigger cast.”

No matter the size, Koehler is excited for opening night because he thinks that this musical is a great production for Fairmont. “I think it’s a great fit for Fairmont to showcase a different side of theatre that people aren’t always exposed to,” he said. “It may not be a sellout every night, because it’s not as well-known as others, but I’m excited to see who does show up.”

Getting the show going this year has been a little rough. As in previous years, there were many snow days in January, which forced Koehler to delay auditions.

“There’s been a ton of unknowns this year. At the outset, I had no choreographer. I didn’t know what set designer we were going to be using. I didn’t know what set we were going to have. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions about what is going to be there,” Koehler said. “But, in the magic of theatre, things always just kind of come together.”

However, he and the cast are confident that they’ll be prepared come opening night.

“I think we’ll be ready. It’s always stressful; this time of year is always a big rush to get everything together, but I think it will get put together nicely and it will be a great show,” said Ginsberg.

Senior Pit Orchestra member Cora McCaffrey agrees, saying that the pit will be prepared to play the catchy tunes of the musical. “It’ll be interesting and it’ll take a lot of hard work, but I really think that we’ll be able to do it and we’ll get everything ready for opening night.”

Music Director Michael Berning knows there have also been some challenges for the pit orchestra this year, and that the pit will be situated on the stage behind the set this year.

“The benefits are that we can involve many more musicians than can fit in the orchestra pit; however, the fact that the conductor is behind the singers makes it pretty challenging,” Berning said. “Even with the closed circuit camera and monitors for both the actors and conductor, it is a little tricky.”

Despite the challenges faced this year, cast, crew, musicians and directors alike are confident that the musical will make a successful debut and be a smash hit.

“I promise you, we will have you on the floor laughing because it’s so funny,” said Carrington.

Ginsberg added: “It doesn’t have quite the sparkly name that Shrek has; not everybody knows it, but it’s just as good if not better.”

Showtimes for the musical are 7:30 p.m. on April 16, 17 and 18, with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 18 as well. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and senior adults. Tickets can be purchased at the music office, which can be reached by calling 499-2647, or online.