Tonight, the Frank Loesser show, about a window washer who dreams of corporate stardom, plays at Salesian High School in New Rochelle. Next weekend, White Plains High School has its own production.
And starting April 24, the White Plains Performing Arts Center will stage a professional production of the show that won a Pulitzer Prize and seven Tony Awards in 1962.
“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” opened on Broadway on Oct. 12, 1961, and ran 1,417 performances, closing on March 6, 1965 – 43 years ago tonight.
It’s about J. Pierrepont Finch, a window washer who dreams of corporate stardom and, who – with the help of a tiny self-help book and, where appropriate, a little backstabbing – is catapulted into the upper echelons of Park Avenue’s World Wide Wicket Co.
The music and lyrics are by Frank Loesser (“Guys & Dolls”) and the book is by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert.
Finch’s chief adversary is Bud Frump, the nephew of Mr. Biggley, CEO of World Wide Wicket. Bud and Finch constant try to outmaneuver each other, say the actors who will play them over the next two weekends.
Salesian’s Finch, senior Torrey Rodriguez, says he likes that his character has the upper hand. “Every time Bud does something malicious I win in the end, anyways,” he says. “The book tells me what’s going to happen in the future.”
Rodriguez also likes having the crowd on his side.
“He plays to the audience a lot, breaking the fourth wall, which I like to do,” Rodriguez says. “It’s fun to flirt with the audience.”
At Salesian, his rival is played by sophomore Miguel Gallardo, 15, who describes Bud as “a nerdy kind of jerk.”
“Bud gets scared, because Finch is getting up there quick, so I try to bring him down whenever I can,” Gallardo says, quoting a favorite line:
“Finch says ‘I’m just delivering the mail’ and I say ‘Finch, the executive mail is my job. If you have any ideas of climbing the ladder around here, the view is going to get awfully monotonous. Every time you look up, you’ll see the seat of my pants.”
Salesian’s Peter Calamari is a theater veteran who planned to sit out “How to Succeed” until director Gina Gentile lost the actor who was to play Mr. Biggley. Calamari stepped in with three weeks to go.
“They basically had the whole show done when I came in,” he says, “so I was, obviously, behind everybody else.”
But he had a feel for the corporate world, having worked a summer at his father’s logistics company in Queens. “I worked in the warehouse and some secretarial stuff,” he says.
Alex Cantatore, 18, a senior at White Plains High School, plays Biggley, too. “He’s an absolute extreme,” Cantatore says. “He’s very corporate but he doesn’t really have any of the skills he needs to do his job. But at the same time, he’s very confident in himself.
“If anything, that’s what this show is about,” he said. “It’s a lot more the show you put on than what you actually have to offer.”
In White Plains, junior Zach Sorrow plays Finch. “He’s an overambitious guy who can’t help but suck up to the executives,” Sorrow says. “It’s a compulsion – and it’s really fun.
“Finch does need his book, but he also has a lot of that ambition just from himself,” he says. “He’s always had the potential. Part of it is coming from him, even though the book is guiding him along.”
When Finch needs a pep talk, he gives himself a pep talk. It takes place in a restroom, when he looks at himself in the mirror and declares “I Believe in You.”
“As it plays out, Finch just happens to be a little bit better at everything,” Sorrow says. “Finch is trying to make himself better; Bud is relying on his uncle.
“Bud adds something important to the show. He’s that small nemesis that you know is just not going to win,” he says, adding that junior Danny Alfonso, who plays Bud, isn’t making it easy to stay in character.
“I’ve been working really hard to make sure that I don’t lose character onstage, because he’s really funny,” he says.
Alfonso, who’s in his first musical, is finding moments of vulnerability in the “sneaky guy” he plays.
“There’s one part where he laughs at his own joke and nobody else thinks it’s funny,” he says. “I guess there are situations where you get to see all sides of the character. I like that.”
Photos by Tania Savayan/The Journal News: Top, Miguel Gallardo, left, as Bud Frump and Torrey Rodriguez as J. Pierrepont Finch rehearse for “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” at Salesian High School in New Rochelle. Bottom: Danny Alfonso as Bud Frump sings during a rehearsal for “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” at White Plains High School.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”
Where: Salesian High School, 148 Main St., New Rochelle.
When: 7:30 p.m. today, tomorrow, Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
With: Christopher Castaldi, Vincent Castaldi, Nicholas Federico, Miguel Gallardo, Fernando Garcia, Paul Lazo, Kevin Matos, Paul McGovern, Alex Miccoli, Matt Morel, Sheldon Payne, William Quinones, Robert Ramos, Torrey Rodriquez, Jonah Sotomayor, Peter Calamari, Christina Julien, Gina Galimi, Janette Martinez, Lissette Martinez, Angelique Cruz, Lauren Rizzo, Jessica Marino, Christine Colangelo, Anthony Colangelo, John Neddermeyer, Robert Kalanz.
“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”
Where: White Plains High School, 550 North St., White Plains.
When: 7:30 p.m., March 14, 15; 3 p.m., March 16.
Tickets: $20 reserved, $10 adults, $5 for students and seniors.
With: Pamela Abrahams, Alexis Adamski, Remy Adler, Daniel Alfonso, T.J. Bastone, Kellsie Belgrave, Rachel Benjamin, Evelyn Berger, Patrick Blaney, Gigi Brady, Victor Brady, Paul Bronzo, Ali Brotmann, Will Burmeister, Alex Cantatore, Seann Cantatore, Jake Carmen, Cara Cohen, Reid Cohen, Andrea DeMarco, David Doyle, Allison Fairhurst, Donya Feizbaksh, Hannah Fine, Remy Gautreau, Cameron Glass, Shinice Hemmings, Mariana Hess, Laura Hollahan, Lani Hosei, Antony Kalathara, Jason Kaplan, Jessica Lacativa, Emma Lagle, Ben Lanman, Katie Lau, Corinne Leary, Ben Leib, Adina Lowy, Julia Maguire, Emily Majsak, Juliana Marothy, Ariel Miller, Paiza Miller, Maia Matsushita, Sean McGee, Meaghan McLeod, Mackenzie Mollo, Ben Norris, Ben Oppenheim, Randy Patterson, Laura Pellegrini, Daniel Petralia, Mitchell Pozo, Peter Pozo, Katie Rie, Becky Riss, Austin Saiz, Alex Sampugnaro, Nicole Santolo, Deborah Scharbach, Elizabeth Scherer, Scott Schwartz, Collin Shepard, Alannah Smith, Zach Sorrow, Preeth Srinivasaraghavan, Edward Zekus, Mary Zhu.