If you're looking for a ride in the time machine this weekend, I recommend that you try to score a ticket for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). The 1962 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner satirizes the corporate world of the early 1960s, and there are some echoes that sound pretty funny 56 years later. How about this exclamation?: "We'll give away stock! Nobody can resist that these days!"
How to Succeed will be performed through a closing matinee on Sunday, and it's worth seeing for at least a half-dozen reasons: (1) It's a classic musical by Frank Loesser (the same guy who wrote Guys and Dolls), and CCM has a 31-piece orchestra in the pit. Even if you go to Broadway, you won't find accompaniment that sounds this good — or uses this many musicians. (2) The show looks great with vibrant primary colors — panels with Mondrian reds, blues and yellows, plus a gigantic monopoly board backdrop — and set pieces (like brilliant red typewriters and telephones, deco elevators and an expansive executive men's room) that move on and off with incredible efficiency. (3) Justin Scott Brown, who plays J. Pierrepont Finch, the ambitious window washer climbing the corporate ladder, is bound for great things in musical theater. Brown, a senior from California, was a CEA nominee a year ago for a totally different kind of performance in the very serious Sondheim musical, Passion. In this production he gets to show off his comedic and dancing skills. (4) Did I say dancing? Diane Lala's spectacular choreography is exciting on a grand scale — with two big ensembles, one male, the other female (mostly playing secretaries). What they do is inventive, fast-paced and totally in the spirit of this amusing show. (5) Kaitlyn Davidson is Rosemary Pilkington, the secretary with her eye on matrimony and the guy who's on the move — and she sees his moves even more clearly than he does. Davidson, a senior from Kansas, sings some of the show's best tunes with heartfelt emotion, even if her character's attitudes are hopelessly out of date (as in "Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm"). (6) if you love the hit TV series Mad Men, you'll feel like you're watching a musical comedy version of the same — smoking, swinging, back-stabbing — not to mention hair, clothes and set designs that completely evoke 1962. (FYI, Robert Morse, who plays Bertram Cooper, the quirky scion of the Stirling Cooper ad agency on Mad Men, originated the role of J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed and won a Tony Award for it in 1962.)
Call in advance: CCM's big fall musical typically sells out its performances in Corbett Auditorium. Tickets to How to Succeed range from $17 to $28; if you're a student and can catch the Saturday 2:30 p.m. matinee, there are $10 student rush seats available starting at 2 p.m. Box office number is 513-556-4183.