Quantcast

Theater preview: CenterPoint director succeeds with 'How to Succeed ...'

Published: Saturday, Aug. 24 2013 1:30 p.m. MDT

Tanner Rampton stars as the shameless corporate ladder-climber J. Pierrepont Finch in CenterPoint Legacy Theatre's Tanner Rampton stars as the shameless corporate ladder-climber J. Pierrepont Finch in CenterPoint Legacy Theatre's "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." (Ron Russell)

CENTERVILLE — The title of Maurie Tarbox’s advice book would be “How to Succeed in Directing ‘How to Succeed in Business …’ ”

By systematically following the rules of a self-help manual that shares its title with this musical, ambitious window washer J. Pierrepont Finch schemes his way from window-washer to the executive suite in a 1960s fictitious corporation.

After heading the CenterPoint Legacy Theatre production, Tarbox would include a large chapter titled “Cast Well.”

“I knew that each role, from the actor playing the lead role of Finch to every member in the ensemble, had to be cast with just the right person,” she says. “Every single person is vitally important to the show.”

Following the highly promoted 2011 Broadway revival of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” with Daniel Radcliffe as Finch, Tarbox saw the popularity of the musical rise at its 50th anniversary staging. (Though the musical thrived, the boy wizard from “Harry Potter” discovered that an “Experto Musicalis!” charm couldn’t shield him from unmagical reviews.)

Melissa Tingey is Rosemary Pilkington, a secretary at the World Wide Wicket Company and love interest to J. Pierrepont Finch (Tanner Rampton), in CenterPoint Legacy Theatre's Melissa Tingey is Rosemary Pilkington, a secretary at the World Wide Wicket Company and love interest to J. Pierrepont Finch (Tanner Rampton), in CenterPoint Legacy Theatre's "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." (Ron Russell)

“About 75 percent of people in this show, I’ve never seen in auditions before,” Tarbox says. "There was such hype about Daniel Radcliffe performing the role that everyone wanted to do the show, especially the men. This is the best men’s ensemble that I’ve ever worked with. And I was most worried about not finding enough men.

“And because every single person is so important, I’ve staged the curtain call so the ensemble gets two bows, one at the beginning and one at the end after Finch.”

Walter Cronkite and Anderson Cooper have famously lent their broadcasting talent to the Book Voice, an offstage recording of advice Finch reads from his tattered paperback while he works his way ever upward at the World Wide Wicket Company. Tarbox initially considered approaching a local newscaster, but asked Jim Christian, a popular Weber State University theater professor and frequent CenterPoint director, to record the wry narration.

Sterling Jenson plays J.B. Biggley, president of the World Wide Wicket Company, with Craig Williams, also cast as J. Pierrepont Finch, in CenterPoint Legacy Theatre's Sterling Jenson plays J.B. Biggley, president of the World Wide Wicket Company, with Craig Williams, also cast as J. Pierrepont Finch, in CenterPoint Legacy Theatre's "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." (Ron Russell)

“And come to find out that Finch was one of the first roles that Jim played on the stage,” she explains. “So it was really perfect casting.”

“How to Succeed …” is an executive-level show in the musical theater canon. The humor in Abe Burrows’ book sparkles with satiric jabs that still ring true around 2013 corporate water coolers. And Frank Loesser’s score is a case study in how to write music for the stage; the lyrics have authentic wit and are set to bubbly tunes.

With these truly enjoyable elements, the sly satire garnered not only a slew of Tonys but also the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a rare accomplishment for a musical.

At its 1961 Broadway debut, the famous critic Walter Kerr wrote, “Not a sincere line is spoken in the musical, and what a relief that ‘How to Succeed …’ is crafty, conniving, sneaky, cynical, irreverent, impertinent, sly, malicious and lovely, just lovely.”

If you go

What: CenterPoint Legacy Theatre’s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”

Where: Davis Center for the Performing Arts

When: through Sept. 14

How much: $21-$17

Tickets: 801-298-1302 or centerpointtheatre.org

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company