How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying is on show at the Regal Theatre from Friday, June 15, ’til Saturday, June 23. Bookings can be made via Ticketek.
Not your average musical, WAAPA’s forthcoming production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying ticks all the boxes, combining singing, dancing and comedy in a conniving office environment where you gotta fake it ’til you make it.
Ahead of the show’s opening at the Regal Theatre, X-Press caught up with Sydney based guest director Jason Langley to find out why How To Succeed In Business Without Really is still being staged 51 years after it first took Broadway by storm.
“For starters it’s a Pulitzer Prize winning musical and there are not many musicals that have won the Pulitzer Prize for drama,” the director says of the show’s longevity. “The musicals that win Pulitzer Prizes are usually groundbreaking and I think How To Succeed In Business was quite ground-breaking for the time. It was incredibly bold for the writers to put on a big Broadway musical but attack what was sacred to everything the US stood for – corporations and big business. It hasn’t lost any relevancy either, which is why it’s still being performed and embraced today. It’s also just a bloody good musical – it has a terrific score, fantastic songs and it’s very funny but it’s also quite meaty and people recognise themselves in it.”
For those who aren’t familiar with the text, How To Succeed In Business charts the rise of J. Pierrepont Finch, a starry-eyed window-washer who manages to climb the corporate ladder just by being in the right place at the right time.
“It’s based on a novel that was written by Shepherd Mead and he wrote it in the time of all those how-to books such as How To Win Friends And Influence People, and he wrote this satirical book on how to rise to the top of a big corporation by doing very little. It’s a very good read and you look at it and go ‘people could have read that back in those days and probably followed all the steps in it and actually risen quite high in an office scenario’.
“The musical is about a young window washer in New York City who gets a hold of this book and he follows the book step by step and finds a corporation that is so big that nobody knows what anyone else is actually doing and he rises to the top without doing very much. It’s about bullshitting and looking like you know what you’re doing and that’s what the young hero of this piece does because that’s what the book tells him to do, and he gets ahead. It’s not a typical old fashioned musical. It sounds like an unlikely premise but you don’t have to dig deep to find those stories in reality.
“I read something recently by a contemporary writer called Stanley Bing who is a business journalist and was employed by a big corporation to write a speech for the CEO. He came to the office and found this beautiful corner office in the building that nobody was using so he just plonked himself there and used it while writing the speech. People in the office saw him in there and gave him other work and once the speech was written he just kept coming in and doing work for people and eventually human resources found out and said ‘we can’t have someone coming in here working for nothing so we have to put him on the payroll or kick him out’. So they put him on the pay roll in a junior management position and he had this top management office that he kept. There’s a million stories like that.”