Even window washers need dreams, and J. Pierrepont Finch (That’s F-I-N-C-H to you) is one window washer that you won’t soon forget. He’s the motivated go-getter who is also the main character in the 1961 smash musical How to Get Ahead in Business Without Really Trying, (HTS) music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, based on the 1952 book originally titled The Dastard’s Guide to Fame and Fortune by Shepherd Mead. The surprise best seller caused Mead to write other How To’s including How To Succeed with Women, How To Succeed in Tennis and How To Live Like a Lord.
HTS, a Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) production, shows the modern audience how the more things change, the more they stay the same, especially in the 1960s business world filled with nepotism, greed, competition, back-biting and desperate need to succeed.
In this revival, Finch, played by an ambitious Chris Dwan, starts his ascent to the top of the World Wide Wicket Company on a window-washing platform. He’s furtively soaking in all the self-help tips possible from How to Succeed in Business, a guide similar to Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, promising its readers that within a few weeks, he will be the Chairman of the Board. While the concept of doting secretaries whose goal in life is to marry their boss and the sexist, cheating businessmen who think the whole dynamic is perfectly perfect could easily remind the audience of Mad Men, the colorful outfits, energetic dance moves and all out positive energy makes it impossible to view Finch as purely a corporate ladder climbing sneak.
Finch is both the honest dreamer and manipulative snake with perfectly timed lines and smiles that connects well with the audience. His love interest Ashley Blanchet plays Rosemary Pilkington, and shows the tenacity and patience that were required of 1950s and 60s women. When signing the lyrics Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm, she devises her plan to marry Finch, while waiting patiently at home for him in her suburban fantasy set in Mecca (New Rochelle), where the picket fences gleam as bright as the residents’ smiles.
Other standout cast members include Stuart Marland, (the boss, Jasper B. Biggley) Felicia Finley, (Hedy LaRue, Mr. Biggley’s mistress) and Joshua Morgan (the boss’ meddling nephew Bud Frump.) The musical numbers pack a punch with fun songs like Coffee Break, Been a Long Day, A Secretary is Not a Toy and Company Way, shows the talented cast’s ability to maintain high energy throughout the entire production, right up to the happy ending. HTS shows how the little guy, armed with a handy dandy self-help book and a quick wit, can make all his Technicolor business success dreams come true.