“How to Succeed in Business” succeeds in capturing the audience's hearts

Talented cast brings story of a man’s business world to life

 “How to Succeed in Business” succeeds in capturing the audience's hearts

Leads (from L to R) Seniors Isabelle Jennings Pickering and Graciela Rey engage in a romantic moment during the busy business day. 

American University’s Department of Performing Arts debuted this semester’s musical, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” on Friday, Oct. 18. Directed by Karl Kippola, the musical will continue this weekend with performances on Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 26 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the Greenberg Theatre. 

With vibrant dancing and singing, perfect comedic timing and songs that tugged at the heartstrings, the cast of "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" breathed life into the classic 1961 musical. 

"How To Succeed" tells the story of J. Pierrepont Finch (played by Isabelle Jennings Pickering), a young and eager window washer in New York City. When Finch reads a book titled “How To Succeed,” she realizes her destiny is to go into big business, and she leaves her work of washing windows behind. 

She searches for a position at the World Wide Wicket Company under false pretenses, with the book dictating Finch's every move. While the book tells her how to rise to the top, she is left wondering how to stay there. 

With a strong supporting ensemble, the audience watches Finch soar, fall and rise again in 180 minutes. Big group numbers such as “Coffee Break” and “Brotherhood Of Man” allow for the entire cast to display their collective talent. Supporting characters such as Smitty (played by Bekah Umansky) and Bud Frump (played by Drew Bondy) bring genius comedic timing to this stiffer show. 

The content from the original production is the same, but there is a significant plot twist in American’s version. While a man traditionally plays the role of Finch, senior Isabelle Jennings Pickering spectacularly takes on the part of the arrogant, up-and-coming businessman. The audience is let in on the secret that Finch is a woman in disguise within the first few minutes.

Stage manager Valarie McFatter said she felt that having a woman in the role of Finch brings a new perspective to the show. 

"With a woman [playing] Finch, it's a whole new layer of what's going to happen,” McFatter said. "In this world, the only way you can get in is to play by the man's rules."

Jennings portrayed male characteristics seamlessly, but while the audience was aware of Finch’s secret, it was never addressed beyond a brief few seconds at the start and towards the end of the performance, leaving the audience with more questions than answers regarding Finch’s fate. 

While the cast succeeded in presenting an entertaining production, “How to Succeed” felt as though there was still a piece of the story waiting to be told. 

Tickets are available online for Saturday and Sunday’s performances.


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