How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

This Sixties satire of big business may be showing its age, but Archangel's production gives it some professional pizazz

Corporate follies: Scott Shipman's J.B. Biggley (l) and Andrew Cannata's J. Pierrepont Finch
Corporate follies: Scott Shipman's J.B. Biggley (l) and Andrew Cannata's J. Pierrepont Finch (Photo courtesy of Archangel Community Theatre)

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Gloria Delgado Performing Arts Theatre, St. Michael's Academy, 3000 Barton Creek Blvd.
Through Aug. 3
Running time: 2 hr., 45 min.

With the Archangel Community Theatre production of Frank Loesser's Pulitzer-winning musical, the dramatic experience begins the moment you leave your driveway. As your destination's surrounded by some of the most breathtaking vistas the Texas Hill Country has to offer, now's the time to suggest a night out to that friend with a convertible Bugatti ... or Miata. With the show's evening curtain time of 7:30pm, you'll be en route during what photographers affectionately call the "golden hour."

The venue is part of St. Michael's Catholic Academy, and Archangel, as its resident company, serves as a talent incubator for young people, who are given the opportunity to work with musical theatre pros from across the region. This probably won't be the place you'll see innovation or edgy material, but if your tastes lean more toward the traditional, St. Michael's certainly has the resources to stage a professional production.

Director Ivan Klousia has set the show – a satirical view of big business sprung from Shepherd Mead's bestselling book of the same name – in the play's original time period of the early Sixties. Indeed, it's difficult to imagine this story taking place at any other time in history, as the women in the office at the World Wide Wicket Company are all secretaries who we're assured are not toys (is that so?), although the men's attitudes suggest otherwise. Still, costume designer Rick Lin decks them out in pleasant sherbet colors, and the effect feels as embalming as watching a rerun of The Bob Newhart Show. In short, we're willing to deal with a little political incorrectness in exchange for a brief return to simpler times.

The large proscenium stage is ample enough to accommodate plenty of performers onstage at once – 21 during an amusingly jittery number during the crisis of running out of coffee, and nearly 30 in the finale. By far the most impressive musical numbers are "Grand Old Ivy" and (oh, the irony!) "Brotherhood of Man." The latter is a baritone powerhouse and the former really showcases the comedic flair of Scott Shipman as J.B. Biggley, the boss whose ladder-climbing employee, J. Pierrepont Finch (Andrew Cannata), is determined to fake it 'til he makes it.

The students at St. Michael's are lucky to have access to a sound system with this level of quality, and the Gloria Delgado Performing Arts Theatre seats nearly 400 people, so I can see the case for using microphones. Still, there's no getting around the fact that amplified sound is in direct conflict with the audience's ability to suspend disbelief – more so when we can see the mics. "What's the opposite of a romantic? A businessman." Romantics might find the "big sound, little warmth" formula here to be a little too strictly business.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Eastward (S)ho(w)!
Eastward (S)ho(w)!
Play! Theatre adds another performance venue east of the interstate

Robert Faires, July 2, 2004

More Austin theatre
Examining the Sins and Virtues of Hypermasculine Theatre
Examining the Sins and Virtues of Hypermasculine Theatre
When is violence in theatre too much?

Shanon Weaver, Dec. 9, 2016

Making Room to Play
Making Room to Play
Create Space Austin kicks off the drive to secure more performing venues in the city

Elizabeth Cobbe, April 15, 2016

More Arts Reviews
The Hideout Theatre’s Virtual Threefer
The Hideout Theatre’s Virtual Threefer
Three troupes Zoomed and Twitched their time upon the improv stage

Wayne Alan Brenner, April 3, 2020

Sad Girls Productions’ <i>So Lucky</i>
Sad Girls Productions' So Lucky
This world premiere from a brand-new company lacks polish, but it does honor its community’s stories

Elizabeth Cobbe, March 20, 2020

More by Stacy Alexander Smith
We Play Chekhov: Two Short Stories on Stage
Breaking String's two-course meal of Chekhov tales proves both meaty and effervescent

Aug. 22, 2014

Playwright / actor Rupert Reyes pays tribute to his father and the pull of the past in this sweet comic romance

Aug. 15, 2014


How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Austin theatre, Archangel Community Theatre, St. Michael's Academy, Ivan Klousia, Rick Lin, Andrew Cannata, Scott Shipman

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle