E.O. Smith takes on 'How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying'

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Storrs - posted Mon., Jan. 21, 2013
Rebecca Kaufman, Katie Ouimette, Emmy Ford, and Rebecca Edelman rehearse for an upcoming E.O. Smith production of 'How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.' Photos by Melanie Savage.
Rebecca Kaufman, Katie Ouimette, Emmy Ford, and Rebecca Edelman rehearse for an upcoming E.O. Smith production of 'How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.' Photos by Melanie Savage.

Lenore Grunko, retired from her teaching position at E.O. Smith but still heading up theater productions at the school, said she used to think that “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” was dated. “And it is dated,” she said. “But now that I’ve gotten more distance I can appreciate the satire, whereas before maybe I couldn’t.”

“How to Succeed” involves the story of J. Pierrepont Finch, a young window washer in New York City who follows the advice of a book to a meteoric rise within the World Wide Wicket Company. The musical pokes fun at office politics and the corporate culture, with nepotism, back-stabbing, lying and ruthlessness all making an appearance.

“We have so many guys and gals these days who are desperately trying to establish themselves,” said Grunko. Finch “goes through an unnaturally quick process to climb to the top,” she said. “There’s this expectation to reach over everybody and climb, climb, climb.” And then Finch falls. “In a way, his ambition outweighs his talent,” said Grunko. “He just expected to climb through the corporate window and climb to the top.”

“How to Succeed” reflects the corporate culture of the '50s and '60s and first opened on Broadway in 1961. The show won seven Tony Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle award, and the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and sparked a movie version starring much of the original cast. A 1995 revival, starring Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullally, was followed by a 50th anniversary revival starring Daniel Radcliffe (of “Harry Potter” fame) and John Larroquette, in 2011.

“The whole ‘Mad Men’ phenomenon is reflected in this show,” said Grunko, referring to the AMC cable hit focused on Don Draper, a hard-drinking, chain-smoking executive at the fictional Madison Avenue advertising agency Sterling Cooper. The popularity of "Mad Men," with its themes of sexism, racism, homophobia, adultery, smoking and drinking, suggests that something about it resonates with the modern American television audience.

The E.O. Smith production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” involves more than 75 students between cast and crew members, with 45 appearing onstage. The show will run Feb. 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m., with 1:30 p.m. matinees scheduled for Feb. 9 and 10. For tickets, call 860-429-2179 or e-mail eosmithdrama@charter.net.


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