Props already set on the stage for a backdrop of a big city, students worked to get their moves right, rehearsing dances that they hoped would wow the audience when the curtain finally rose on “How to Success in Business Without Really Trying.”
“The show’s title is ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,’ but it kind of shows that you really do have to try. You can’t get things easy in the world,” said Deenie Hutchinson, a senior at Bayonne High School. She plays Miss Krumholtz in what has become one of the symbolic musicals reflecting modern American ambition.
Revived several times for movies, TV and Broadway – the last rendition only a year ago featuring Bayonne resident Tammy Blanchard, for which she received a Tony nomination – this musical has become something of a symbol for modern times, it is the story of the neverending struggle on how to get ahead in the modern business world, especially with the growing disparity in the national stage between Main Street U.S.A. and Wall Street.
“How to Succeed” tells the story of young window-washer J. Pierrepont Finch (played by junior Nicholas D’Amato), who begins a meteoric rise from the mail room to a position as vice president of advertising at the World-Wide Wicket Company, thanks to a self-help book and some unorthodox and morally questionable business tactics. As Finch rises on the career ladder, his methods jeopardize not only his career, but also his romance with Secretary Rosemary Pilkington (played by junior Amanda Rosati).
“How to Succeed” is a delightful musical satire of corporate life and office politics, packed with memorable songs such as “Brotherhood of Man” and “I Believe in You.” “How to Succeed” won both the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize at its 1961 debut, and returned to Broadway for two revivals: one in 1995 featuring Matthew Broderick, and recently in 2011 starring Daniel Radcliff. BHS Drama hopes to charm audiences with this witty, high-energy musical production.
“This is a show I like very much,” said Tim Craig, director of BHS Arts Department. “I couldn’t wait for this to become available, especially since it just closed on Broadway. I saw the show and I wanted to do it at the high school. It’s a fun show. It’s a funny show.”
Cast and crew
With 52 students involved in various aspects of production, it is also a large show, running about two hours with intermission.
While some of the cast were willing to attempt to convey the message of the musical, Craig said he preferred for audiences to come see the show and figure it out for themselves.
Paolo Piccalo, a junior at Bayonne High School, plays J.B. Bigley, basing his performance only partly on the film and the play.
Somewhat typecast, Piccalo said he’s played big shots in other high school plays, although this character proved a challenge only because he was so corrupt and so petty, traveling around with his mistress, while ducking phone calls from his wife.
He said his favorite song in the show is “Brotherhood of Man,” a satirical and humorous song that plays against the real motives of most of its characters. “When it comes to the film and the show, it’s a kind of balance, so I know what my character is going to be, but I sort of focus on the show.”
Saddled with a mistress and a persistently calling wife, Bigley is constantly on the move, constantly upset as he ducks his wife’s call. How does he get this character out of him?
“I can say I have that kind of brawn and that kind of tone,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for so long.”
Prior to this he appeared in “A Christmas Carol” and “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”
Amanda Rosati, also a junior, has aspirations to become a makeup artist.
She plays Rosemary, a character that she said is “incredibly ambitious and driver,” someone who is not going to let anything stop her from getting ahead. “I’m similar in that I don’t give up,” she said. “I’m driven, too.”
This is her first major role in a musical, having previously played minor parts or been in the ensemble.
Rosati said Rosemary wants to get a man.
“She is incredibly ambitious end driven and has a goal to find her future husband,” she said and when she sees the man she wants, she goes after him. “She realizes this is the guy, and she will not stop until she gets him. And I think with that, we’re similar in the sense of not giving up and being driven.”
“This is a show I like very much.” – Tim Craig
The challenge? “Playing someone who can almost come across as vulnerable, but isn’t at the same time. It is hard being in love on stage and hoping that I can portray that to the audience,” she said.
Where does she draw from: personal life or from character? “I think it is something I understand from the character,” she said. “I haven’t been in love so I can’t take that from life experience. I’ve only seen it in other people, and I pick it up and copy their actions.”
She said this play is about having the drive it takes to make it to the top, in a manipulative way but also with no harm intended. Her favorite number is “A Secretary Is Not a Toy.”
She said she learned to understand things about her character, about not taking life for granted, and how much it a lot of drive to make it to the top.
Kirsten Ayala, also a junior, hopes to major in musical theater when she gets to college and minor in musical education. She plays Miss Jones, Bigley’s immovable secretary.
“I see the play as a whole, about how if you work all the time, you miss some of the pleasures of life.”
She also played major roles in “Smokey Joe’s Café” and “Into the Woods” prior to this production.
“When I sat down and thought about it, she makes remarks back to others. She’s like this old creepy thing. So I have to be old, creepy and stern. I’m the executive secretary. So I have to be an executive secretary.”
Ayala added, “To me, this whole play is about if all your time is spent working, working, working, you’re going to miss all the pleasing things in life like Rosemary’s love. What would you do if you didn’t have that in your life?”
Her favorite number is the “Yo-ho-ho” dance.
She previously played “Into the Woods” as Jack’s mother and was a featured soloist in the musical.
Hutchinson, a senior who intends to major in broadcasting and minor in musical theater when she gets to college, said her character Miss Krumholtz largely sits back and watches but does not get involved.
“At same time she still sticks out, especially in ‘A Secretary Is Not a Toy,’” she said. “She has her little moments.”
At first, I read that she was typecast to be an awkward secretary that nobody likes and then I got into the role.”
She played the judge in “Miracle on 34th Street” and in other roles in “Smokey Joe’s Café.”
Performances of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” are Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7 and 8 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. in the Alexander X. O’Connor Auditorium at Bayonne High School. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors, and can be purchased at the door or in advance at www.bhsdramasociety.com.