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OU entertains in its production of 'How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying'



From top to bottom, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" is a first-rate production, starting with the musical itself, which won seven Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1962. Full of wit, charm and some clever satire, the musical took on the male-dominated business world of its day and skewered it.

While some things have most certainly changed for the better, "How to Succeed" still has some interesting things to say about modern office politics, corporate incompetence and the desire for money and power ... and those who seek both.

The story centers on the journey of window washer turned corporate-ladder climber J. Pierrepont Finch. Using the 1952 book "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" as his guide, Ponty schemes his way through the labyrinthine corporate structure at World Wide Wickets to promotion after promotion. Along the way, he falls in love with a secretary named Rosemary and earns the ire of the boss's nephew and rival, Bud Frump.

In the role of Finch, Skyler Adams strikes just the right balance between ambitious and good-hearted, keeping the audience firmly on his side as he engages in his game of human chess. Lindsay Rae Schwak is strong as Roesmary, but amusing in her pining for Ponty, and does a great job being sincere, while also playing up the satire in numbers like "Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm." Kate Dinsmore as Smitty really shines alongside Adams and Schwak in the number "Been a Long Day," in which she tries to get the two to go out on a date.

Ryan Wood delivers a brilliant comedic performance as Wickets CEO J.B. Biggley, while also convincingly playing an older character. Kasey Walker is note-perfect as J.B.'s troublemaking mistress, the blond bombshell Hedy La Rue. Adrianna Hicks makes a huge splash in just a few scenes as J.B.'s fiery secretary, Miss Jones, including a soaring vocal performance in the big number, "Brotherhood of Man."

As scheming mama's boy Bud Frump, Ryan Koss takes a character that in lesser hands would just be annoying, and delivers a hilarious, scene-stealing performance that is imminently watchable and almost endearing. Bud's still a jerk "? just an entertaining jerk. You almost feel bad for him as he goes up against Ponty's seemingly charmed machinations.

The play is sharply directed by Shawn Churchman with delightful choreography by Lyn Cramer, strong music direction by Paul Christman and sound design by Chance MacNeill, and spot-on lighting by Hope Schnick. Jennifer Cozens's great costumes perfectly complement the actor's performances and look great on the sets designed by Uldarico Sarmiento.

Even among such universally good work, the set design deserves special praise. The huge sets make full use of the space, creating a sense of scale that really sells the illusion of being in a high-rise office building. Colorful and evocative of the architecture and interior design of the 1960s, the Wickets building becomes a character itself: eccentric, entertaining and a delight to watch in its own right.

With memorable characters, great songs, sharp humor, top-notch production values, and a truly wonderful cast, OU's production of "How to Succeed in Business" is worth really trying.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying stages at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday presented by  University of Oklahoma School of Musical Theatre at Rupel J. Jones Theatre, 536 Elm in Norman.

"?Eric Webb


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