HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING
When: July 10 – 27, 7:30 p.m. Thursday – Saturdays, 2 p.m.
Where: SBCC’s Garvin Theater, West Campus
Information: (805) 965-5935 or www.theatregroupsbcc.com.
Summer is a break for most institutions, but for SBCC’s Theater Dept. it’s actually the beginning of its 2019-2020 season. To do so, they are bringing Abe Burrows and Frank Loesser’s musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” to the Garvin Theater for a two-week run. The original musical won a Pulitzer and Tony Awards, and was the follow-up to the creators “Guys and Dolls.”
R Michael Gros will be directing the cast of two dozen in the Garvin’s usual impressive style, including some returning favorites, some SBCC newcomers, and some who have “Succeed” on their resume. Many readers might remember Robert Morse leading the cast in the film version, one of the reasons he was cast as the patriarch in the recent TV series “Mad Men,” also set in the world of New York big business. The show makes for a handy short hand — Gros has been explaining to his designer this is “Mad Men, The Musical.”
“I’ve also been calling it ‘Cinderfella,’” he says, “because the main character comes from a low status, rises up considerably, and he finds his princess in the end.” (It also helps that there’s actually a number called “Cinderella” in the musical.)
The hero of this comedy is J. Pierrepoint Finch, played by Ryan Ostendorf. At only 20 years old, he’s already been in SBCC’s “Rabbit Hole,” “Grease,” and “High Society.” However, this is his first lead role, and that comes with a lot of responsibility.
“We train our actors not just to give the best performance that they can, but to provide leadership for others in the cast that our less experienced,” Gros says. “And I told him I would give him the opportunity to prove that leadership and I will prod you when I don’t see that happening.” That prodding didn’t happen, because Ostendorf has indeed stepped up.
Playing Finch’s love interest Rosemary is Ciara Tolliver, who starred in “Grease,” but maybe more importantly, played Rosemary once before in Santa Barbara High’s production.
“One of the conversations we had was, you’re not the same person that you were then, so will you be able to adapt to a new production,” he said. And she has been.
Gros admits to a little trepidation every time he cracks open a well-loved older work. Not everything has dated well, especially the casual sexism explored in…well, shows like “Mad Men.” Instead, he was surprised.
“There’s a song called ‘The Secretary Is Not a Toy,’” he says. “In the era of #metoo here’s a play that’s nearly 60 years old, the musical lays down the rules of behavior in the workplace…It shows that the writers were ahead of their time, and there should be respect for women in the workplace.”
But then, as now, he says, the many of us still meet our romantic partners in the workplace, and hence “Success” still resonates. (According to one online survey, it’s the second most popular way, with “meeting through friends” number one.)
For this dance-heavy production, Gros brought in SBCC’s Tracy Kofford (head of the dance department) and Chloe Grace Roberts.
The cast also features Hannah Brudney, Paul Canter, Chris Carmona, Victor Carrasco, Lennon Chahivec-Schneider, Christian Duarte, Amanda M. Elliot, Austin Escamilla, Alexander Fell, Grace Gibbs, Josie Gillingham, Katie Hahka, Ken Johnson, Marisol Miller-Wave, Kathleen McLychok, Sarah Raines, Landon Ranck, Hannah Lee Robinson, Daniel Sabraw, Rich Sander, Irving Soto, Zachary A. Thompson, and Annabell Walker.
“We’re all in this together,” Gros says, echoing the musical’s theme, “which is something we all need to hear these days…It’s about lightness and fun and finding love, all the things that people seek when they come to see a musical. You’ll be tapping your toes and humming along.”