Setting the Scene

This show was written for stage in 1961 and is one of only six musicals ever to have won a Pulitzer prize for Drama (1962). In 1967 it was made into a film but more recently it was a Tony award winning Broadway production in 1995 with Matthew Broderick in the lead. It is a funny (and highly topical!) piece about one man's rise from being a Window-washer up the corporate ladder in an incompetent, hierarchical company – a modern day satire, if you will! The show has many great tunes such as "Company Way", "A Secretary is Not a Toy", "Brotherhood of Man" and the title song "How to".

The Story and Songs

Act 1

J. Pierrepont Finch, a young window cleaner, has a mind for advancement. As he reads “How To Succeed…” we hear the disembodied "Book Voice" tells him what he needs to know. On entering the World Wide Wicket Company looking for a job, Finch knocks J.B. Biggley, the president of the company, to the ground. Finch presses Biggley for a job, who dismisses him to the personnel manager, Mr. Bratt. Rosemary Pilkington, a secretary, is impressed with Finch and offers to help him. Bratt treats Finch brusquely until Finch mentions he was referred by Mr. Biggley. Finch is given a job in the mailroom, where he works with Mr. Biggley's lazy and nepotism-minded nephew Bud Frump. Rosemary dreams of a life with Finch in the suburbs and tells her friend Smitty that she'd be Happy to Keep his Dinner Warm. Coffee break! The fatigued workers fall over each other in their rush to get to the coffee machine, only to find it bone dry. It’s a dubious reason for a song, but hey. Meanwhile we learn Mr Twimble, head of the mailroom, is moving to the shipping department. He tells Finch that the secret to longevity at the company is to play things The Company Way. Twimble appoints Finch as his successor, but Finch, heeding the words of his trusty book, declines the promotion, saying that Bud Frump is more qualified. Frump accepts, vowing to play things The Company Way, too. Twimble and Bratt are impressed by Finch, and Bratt offers him a job as a junior executive in the Plans and Systems department, headed by Mr. Gatch. Frump, seeing that he has been outdone, fumes. Miss Hedy LaRue, a gorgeous Marilyn Monroe-esque career woman is Mr. Biggley's mistress, leaving the men around the office panting in her wake. Mr. Bratt reminds his men that A Secretary Is Not a Toy. It is Friday afternoon, just after five o'clock. As the employees make their way to the elevators, the ever-alert Finch learns that Biggley is extremely proud of his alma mater, Old Ivy, and learns that he will be in the office Saturday morning. Rosemary and Smitty encounter Finch at the elevator. They agree that it's "Been a Long Day", and Smitty helps them arrange a date. Frump runs into Biggley and Hedy, arguing about her job. Frump realizes their relationship and blackmails Biggley into giving him a promotion. For them too it’s "Been A Long Day"! On Saturday morning, Finch enters early and scatters a mess around his office to make it appear that he has been working all night. Biggley arrives and witnesses Finch "asleep" at his desk. Finch "absent-mindedly" begins humming Grand Old Ivy – the Old Ivy song. Finch allows Biggley believe that he, too, is a proud alumnus. Biggley insists that Finch be given his own office and secretary. Bratt assigns Hedy, prompting the Book Voice to warn Finch to beware of secretaries who have many talents, none of them secretarial! Finch realises that Biggley must be her advocate, and sends her on an errand to Gatch, knowing that he won't be able to resist making a pass at her. The scene finishes with Finch promoted to run Gatch’s department as Gatch is dispatched to an out of town office…in Venezuela! A reception for the new Advertising Department head, Benjamin Burton Daniel Ovington, is being held, and Rosemary hopes to impress Finch with her new Paris Original. She arrives first, only to watch all of the women in the office enter wearing an identical design of dress! Hedy has a bit too much to drink, and she exits to shower in Biggley's office. Frump, seeing an opportunity, tells Finch that Biggley is waiting in his office for him. Hoping to trap Finch and Hedy, Frump goes off to find Biggley. In the office, Hedy makes a pass at Finch, and, as they are kissing passionately, Finch realizes that he is in love with Rosemary, who enters as Hedy returns to the bathroom. Finch proposes to her and, as she is about to accept, Hedy comes out of the bathroom clad in only a robe. Rosemary angrily leaves the office, only to find Frump and Biggley just outside the door. Hedy returns to the bathroom, and Finch and Rosemary embrace – just in time for Frump and Biggley to walk through the door. Though JB does not approve entirely of the behaviour Finch gets away with it as JB doesn’t see Hedy in his office. Ovington resigns after Biggley realizes he went to Old Ivy's bitter rival Northern State (the Chipmunks). Biggley names Finch Vice-President in Charge of Advertising, and gives him two days to present his ideas at a meeting. Biggley leaves as Finch and Rosemary declare their love for J. Pierrepont Finch. Bud Frump is once again fuming.

Act 2

It is the morning of the big meeting, and Rosemary is feeling neglected by Finch. She decides to quit, but her fellow secretaries convince her to stay: she's living their dream of marrying an executive and becoming Cinderella, Darling. She relents saying she will give him one more chance. The book tells Finch, that he has done brilliantly… unless he is VP in charge of Advertising, in which case “you must get a brilliant idea". Bud Frump enters and slyly tells Finch about his idea for a Treasure hunt. Finch loves the idea, unaware that Biggley has already rejected it. Finch bounces the idea off Rosemary, who tells him that, no matter what, she'd be Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm (reprise). Hedy tells Biggley she is extremely unhappy with her job and is leaving for California. He begs her to stay, and declares his Love From a Heart of Gold. In the executive washroom, Frump assures the others that Finch's plan will fail and, with it, his career. Finch enters and gives himself a pep talk, saying I Believe in You. Finch presents "his" idea: he will hide five thousand shares of company stock in each of the ten offices around the country and give the audience weekly clues as to their whereabouts. Biggley is about to reject this idea yet again, when Finch explains that each clue will be given by the World Wide Wicket Girl: Miss Hedy LaRue. JB sees the chance to pacify Hedy (and stop her moving to California) so goes for the plan. During the first television show, Hedy is asked to swear on a Bible that she doesn't know the location of the prizes. Hedy, whom Biggley had told the night before where the treasure was hidden, panics and reveals the locations to the entire television audience. It’s a disaster as looting of all the companies’ offices ensues. The book tells Finch, "How To Handle a Disaster. …we suggest that your best bet is to review the first chapter of this book: 'How to Apply for a Job' ". Treasure hunters have wrecked World Wide Wicket Company offices across the country, and the executives, including Chairman of the Board Wally Womper, are waiting in Biggley's office for Finch's resignation. Rosemary tells Finch "I Believe in You". About to sign his letter of resignation, Finch mentions that he'll probably be going back to washing windows. Womper is drawn to Finch as he, too, was a washer of windows and that they both "had a book", Wally's book being a book of betting records. Finch manages to place the blame for the treasure hunt on Bud, also mentioning that Frump is Biggley's nephew. Womper is about to "clean house from top to bottom", when Finch steps in on everyone's behalf. Finch tells the executives that they're all part of the Brotherhood of Man. Everyone is spared, except Frump, who is fired because he is Biggley's nephew. At the finale, we see that Biggley is still president, Bud Frump is reduced to being a window cleaner, Womper is retiring to travel the world with his new wife, Hedy, and Finch will become Chairman of the Board. Rosemary stands by his side and inadvertently inspires him to aspire for Presidency of the United States. Obama had better watch out! The Company Way Finale.

The End

The Production team

  • Director – Seán O’Farrell
  • Musical Director – Marcus Davidson
  • Choreographer – Andrea Gerret
  • Stage Manager – Richard Seagroatt
  • Costumes – Pauline Seagroatt / Debbie Featherstone
  • Props – Debbie Featherstone
  • Special Thanks to – Chris Cockburn / Sam Leach / Rachael Parry-Taylor / Carol Morris / Fidelma O’Neill / Justine Knight / Amelia Scofield / Ella Pevsner / Peter O’Donovan / Rick Astley

The Cast

  • J Pierrepont Finch – Kevin Shen
  • Rosemary Pilkington – Mary Dunn
  • JB Biggley – Barry Pavey
  • Bud Frump – Tom Scambler
  • Smitty – Manuela Langotsch
  • Hedy La Rue – Karina Knapinska
  • Mr Bratt – Neil Carmichael
  • Mr Gatch – Darren JA Knight
  • Miss Krumholtz – D’Angeles da Silva
  • Mr Jenkins – Roy Parris
  • Mr Twimble/Mr Tackaberry – Jude Figueria
  • Miss Jones – Pauline Seagroatt
  • Daniel Ovington/TV Announcer – Richard Seagroatt
  • Mr Womper – Seán O’Farrell
  • Book Voice – Dave Chaisty
  • Chorus – Kimberley Barrios / Alia Waheed / Charlotte Knell / Debbie Featherstone
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