“How to Succeed” at the Sunset

Sunset Playhouse makes cut-throat business ambition a barrel of fun in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."

By - Aug 5th, 2013 01:29 pm
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email
Jake Konrath as J. Pierpont Finch in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." Photo courtesy of the Sunset Playhouse.

Jake Konrath as J. Pierpont Finch in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Photo courtesy of the Sunset Playhouse.

OK, you Mad Men fans! One weekend remains to see Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, the mid-century musical that sends up  the world of mid-century business, at the Sunset Playhouse.

A lot has changed in the business world — cigarettes, booze, pointy boobs and pill box hats have vanished from the office. But some things never change. How about the song The Secretary is not a Toy? The characterized relationships between people and their bosses are still as relevant today.

Shepherd Mead wrote the book that is the basis of the musical. Like J. Pierepont Finch, the protagonist in the musical, Mead started as a mail clerk in the mid 1930’s and rose to become a vice president. It took Mead decades; Finch gets to the top of the executive suite in one week.

Jake Konrath makes a hilarious Finch at the Sunset. He shows a range of emotions, from confidence in his ability to shoot up the corporate ladder by following the rules in a book to shy humility when courting his Rosemary. Konrath is especially funny when interacting with Bud Frump (played by Mark Neufang), the guy you love to hate at the office.

Finch is observant of those around him and devises coincidences that help to form instant friendships — that is, alliances. Meanwhile, Frump mischievously tries to undermine Finch, who is always one up — he’s the nephew of the big boss. The male ensemble works well together with Frump to try to figure out what this guy has that they don’t.

Rosemary Pilkington, played by Katie Katschke, is the typical 50’s gal: dedicated and hard-working until she can find a husband! Her song Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm expresses her June Cleaver dream of suburban house-wifery in New Rochelle, then the highest per capita income city in the state of New York.

Smitty, the office busybody (Rhonda Huckstorf) and Hedy La Rue (Samantha Paige), the va-va-va-voom girlfriend of the boss, present perfect images of their characters, many times to much laughter. And Hedy is a great tart.

This musical also has its mock-Ivy League rivalries with wacky mascots, handshakes and songs, featuring Ovington (Phillip “Drew” Martin) and J.B. Biggley (David Scott) facing off with their Groundhog vs Chipmunk spirit.

L.Thomas Lueck directs with a minimal scenic background and all-props-on-wheels to create a changing visual of the many scenes. The large cast moves easily around the stage, including during the huge tap number near the end.

Side Note: The Sunset is a community theater and mostly volunteer. On opening night, Katie Katschke was awarded the annual Furlan Scholarship. Her father, Dick Katschke, plays the MailRoom Supervisor and is also the Vice President of the Sunset Playhouse. This epitomizes a comment by Lueck: “Sunset brings together the community, family and relationships with such  amazing talent, supported by phenomenal volunteers, without whom plays of this quality could not be presented.”

How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying is running through Saturday, August 11. Thursday and Friday shows begin at 7:30 p.m., Saturday shows at 3 and 7:30 p.m, Sundays at  2 p.m. For tickets, call 262 782-4430 or visit the Sunset Playhouse website.

Categories: Theater

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *