Theatre department ‘succeeds’ in delivering exceptional production

When I first heard that “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” would be coming to SVSU, I was excited because I know how good the university’s theatre department is. They’ve produced amazing shows before with “The Producers” and several other plays, where they take something good and make it great. “How to Succeed” was no different.

The story follows J. Pierrepont Finch (that’s F-I-N-C-H) as he goes from being a window washer to the top of the food chain as an executive at his company. His inspiration and ability to succeed comes from a book on how to succeed in business, and as he follows the steps he takes great leaps towards the top of the company.

The Valley Vanguard

Courtesy photo | University Communications

Keith Schnabel and Isaac Wood perform in last week’s musical.

In addition to the satire of the business world, the play hits on several social issues relatable today, such as office romance, office treatment of female workers and backstabbing co-workers eager to get a step ahead of you.

Casting-wise, everything about this production was marvelous. Isaac Wood starred as Finch. I actually think “starred” might be a bit of an understatement. He pranced around the stage, showcasing the progression of the character in a series of facial expressions and an authenticity that helped me conclude that he was more Finch-y than Robert Morse was in the 1967 version of the film.

Tristian Evanoff played the role of Rosemary, Finch’s girlfriend, and did an excellent job of portraying her. From her voice, ability to sing and longing for Finch’s attention, everything about this casting decision was spot on.

Keith Schnabel took on the part of J.B. Biggley, the president of the company. He did a superb job of marching around the stage and playing a slightly incompetent boss who has a series of secrets. By sporting gray hair, a very nice mustache and rocking an interesting vocal sound, Schnabel looked and sounded the part.

Jonah Conner also deserves to be spotlighted for his role as Bud Frump, an overly eccentric character who shares a special bond with his mother and a clear cut jealousy for everything that Finch achieves throughout the play.

Mary Ankony played Hedy LaRue, an incompetent love interest of most of the characters at some point or another. Her beauty radiated on stage, with a taut, saucy performance to match.

Each casting decision was obviously consciously made. It would be hard to imagine anybody else playing Finch, Rosemary or even Frump. Every cast member helped elevate the play in one way or another, and when the cast was given the opportunity to sing, the real talent of each member was showcased for the audience.

I have had the honor of attending many plays put on by the SVSU theatre department.Among these, a few have been directed by Ric Roberts, and none of them ever left me disappointed. This play was no different. I laughed, I cried (tears of joy, of course), and learned a thing or two about succeeding in business. I cannot speak for Roberts himself, but I would venture to say that he is proud of the job he did throughout this show.

Each costume design fit the times and the play. Watching the men wear their combinations of button downs, ties and the occasional sweatervest made it feel authentic. The female characters also looked the part of the office employee of the time with their pencil skirts and choice dresses. By the end, I was feeling mightily underdressed from my seat in the front row.

In addition to some great-looking costumes, the set was another positive aspect in this wonderful production. A wide setup with multiple doors and two floors, it seemed to be a very difficult thing to have constructed. With Jerry Dennis as the  set designer, I wonder if we should ever expect anything less than magnificent.

While acting and great casting decisions can carry a play a long way, things like poor lighting and boring effects can boggle it down and make it a monotonous affair. Nothing of the sort could be said for this show, however, as the well-timed effects of spotlighting Finch’s face and an audio voiceover by none other than former university president Dr. Eric Gilbertson only added to an otherwise fabulous production. Not only did I have the opportunity to check out a famous and enjoyable play, but the live orchestra conducted by Jeremiah Kraniak made for an even more enjoyable time.

The show was overtly fun, funny and exciting. Watching so many young people in their element not only inspired, but it entertained. I struggled to find a single negative aspect of the show. Other than maybe two lines that fell quiet beneath the live music, there was not a thing I feel could have been improved on or changed. The show was fantastic and something that everyone can enjoy, whether you are a theatre buff or watching a production for the very first time.

This entry was posted on Monday, April 13th, 2015 and is filed under A&E. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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