David Douglas High’s ‘Succeed’ show sizzles and sparkles

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – a cross between “High School Musical” and “Mad Men” – is the show, now playing, that’s sure to put a smile on your face …

David Douglas High School Music instructor, and the show’s conductor, Jennifer Muller, cues the live orchestra – perched on the set’s second story – to begin the overture of the school’s sparkling fall musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
If you’re in the mood to take your family to see a colorful show that’s snappy and saucy – get reservations to see the musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the fall theatrical offering at David Douglas High School.

David Douglas’ Theater and Music Departments “pulled out all the stops” to present a show that’s been called a cross between “High School Musical” and “Mad Men”.

Young and ambitious window-washer J. Pierrepont Finch (played by Ian Booth) takes a break, and gets advice from his new book, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

It’s been a Broadway musical – three times –most recently featuring Daniel Radcliffe (best known as “Harry Potter”) and John Larroquette (from TV’s Night Court). That version opened last year, and ran for 473 performances. And, it’s also been a motion picture seen around the world.

“Success” features songs and dance numbers, one after another, performed on an eye-popping two-story art-deco stage constructed by the theatrical craft class students, and designed by instructor and theater manager Mark L. Taylor.

World Wide Wickets Corporation” President J.B. Biggley (played by Karsten Montgomery) seems unimpressed with Finch, in this chance meeting …

… A meeting that Finch cleverly parlays as he meets the company’s Personnel Manager, Bert Bratt (London Bauman) – to land a job in the mailroom.

About the story
It’s set in the early 1960s – and illustrates the chauvinistic attitudes of the era, much like in the hit cable-TV show “Mad Men”. When first presented five decades ago, some of the dialog and situations might have been considered a little risqué – but nowadays, it comes off simply as comically quaint. It’s definitely rated “G” – Great for the whole family.

“It’s not a commonly-seen stage musical,” remarked the show’s director, and theater instructor, Judy LeCoq. “But, it is funny, witty and lively!”

The show, LeCoq said, is a satire of behaviors found in big companies and organizations.

After seeing Finch, it’s “love at first sight” for secretary Rosemary Pilkington (Kelsey Milks), as she tells her best friend at work, Smitty (Arielle Stuart).

In this big production number, employees bemoan that there’s no java to be had during their “Coffee Break”.

The story revolves around J. Pierrepont Finch, an energetic young man with big ambitions of “rising to the top” in the business world. He’s helped along the way by a “talking book” entitled “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”.

His unique “book” provides Finch with timely advice regarding promotions, dealing with romantic entanglements, avoiding traps and pitfalls set up by coworkers – and how to navigate his way up the corporate ladder to fortune and success.

Biggley’s nepotistic-minded nephew Bud Frump (Pablo Iniguez) celebrates, singing that he’s a “Company Man”, after it’s announced he’s been promoted to Mail Room Manager.

When Hedy LaRue (Dannah Hooper) – a former nightclub “cigarette girl”, and a “very good friend” of Biggley – reports for work at World Wide Wickets, she makes a big entrance, and an indelible impression, on the staff.

But the staff is reminded that “A Secretary is Not a Toy”, in this musical number.

It’s a good thing he has this guidance, because as Finch gets a mail room job at the “World Wide Wicket Company” – he finds himself surrounded by many circumstances that could get him dispatched to Venezuela. That was the fate of a previous unwary manager at the firm.

  • Will Finch rise to the top of World Wide Wicket Corporation?
  • Might the nefarious plan of Biggley’s scheming nephew pay off?
  • Can Rosemary gain the attention and affection of Finch?


Not satisfied with his promotion, Bud Frump seeks an even higher position, and gets it – by threatening to blackmail his uncle Biggley about his relationship with “secretary” Hedy LaRue.

At this party, welcoming the 11th new VP of Advertising – that year! – a scandalous plan is afoot, and romance is in the air.

Performances that snap and sizzle
This musical features a cast of 40 superb actors, singers, and dancers – backed up by the school’s 26-piece live orchestra, under the baton of music instructor Jennifer Muller.

Working together with choral director and singing coach Christopher Silva, the performers deliver the songs and instrumental numbers are professionally played  – absolutely first rate. The musicians and singers all give college-level performances. Amazing!

The dance numbers are stylish and sassy, thanks to the efforts of choreographer Lynette Velasquez. And, Taylor’s fourteen Advanced Technical Services students and six Stagecraft class students move the sets, and run the lights and the sound, that make this show look like a professional “downtown theater” presentation.

After being overcome with his emotions, Finch declares his love for Rosemary.

And, it looks as if Rosemary is pleased by Finch’s sudden proposal!

We were bowled over by the ease these student actors make the snappy dialog flow, bringing this quirky comedy to life. One after another, they deliver standout performances.

Song after song, gag after gag, the David Douglas cast demonstrates they’ve put in the effort to make this show sparkle and shine.

In all, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a delightful theatrical experience.

What will Mr. Biggley say, when he walks in on Finch and Rosemary – in his executive office?

Two-week run includes matinees
The curtain rose on How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at 7:30 p.m. on November 9 and continues the evenings of November 10, 16, and 17.

And, because this is a fun family show, they’ve scheduled two Family Matinees – on November 11 and November 18, at 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon.

Tickets: Reserved seating at all performances. Adults: $10; Students/Seniors: $7.

The Box Office is open “school weeks” on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3:00 until 5:30 p.m. Or, call (503) 261-8270 to reserve tickets. Even easier: Reserve tickets online at this website: CLICK HERE to open the page.

The shows (and the Box Office) are located in the David Douglas High School Horner Performing Arts Center, 1400 SE 130th Avenue in outer East Portland (between SE Division and SE Stark Street).

Spectacular song-and-dance production numbers like this one, great acting and first-class singing are some of the reason you’ll enjoy seeing How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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