How to succeed in business without being completely offensive


Pictured above cast and crew members rush out to hug friends, and family after the Friday night performance of ‘How to succeed in business without really trying.’ Due to concerns with the original plays misogyny, all roles were gender swapped for the South High performances. Photo: Izzy Willette

It’s funny, it’s wacky, and it makes a statement; this spring’s musical, “How to succeed in business without really trying,” takes a South High twist on a dated broadway show. With a live orchestra of over 30 south students, an ever changing set, and catchy songs that’ll get stuck in your head, the performance is not your typical highschool play.

The play, based off of Shepherd Mead’s book, How to Succeed in business without really trying, was first performed as a play on broadway in 1961. The story chronicles the career of J. Pierrepont Finch (Elizabeth Koetz), a lowly window washer hoping to move up in the ranks of the World Wide Wicket Company in the easiest way possible, with the help of a little book. The original play has often been deemed sexist, or misogynistic, in regards to its portrayal of female characters. Almost all of whom are secretaries with little character development beyond the sexual harassment they face in the office place.

Angelica Deloria, who plays Womper the chairwoman of the board explained, “it originally started with all of the roles that we do played as females we’re played by males. And all the roles in our show played by males were originally played by females. We’re kind of taking that twist, and trying to change those social norms, just have a new South High twist on it.”

In the South High theatre department’s genderbend take on the play, almost all roles originally intended for men are played by women, and all roles intended for women are played by men. Nina Kilgriff, who plays Executive Tackaberry, mentioned that she was, “not a fan of this show, I think it is terrible. It is very misogynistic it’s very white washed. It’s just everything really bad, and the fact that we changed up the genders makes it a little better.”

Some believe swapping the character’s genders doesn’t go far enough. “I think even though we switched it it’s still a little questionable, said Natashia Otiso (Executive Peterson). Otiso explained that the harassment of women in the workforce isn’t just limited to a 1960s play, “these are some serious issues, and they’re happening to people as we speak.”

Senior Aaron Vanek plays one of the main secretaries in the play, Anthony, and love interest of lead J. Pierrepont Finch. Vanek’s character, who spends the majority of the play trying to get the attention and love of Finch, sings a variety of catchy tunes including: Paris Original, and Happy to Keep Her Dinner Warm, (originally Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm). Vanek mentioned, “with the gender swap, and having done it, it’s pretty fun. In terms of the role, it’s actually pretty frustrating given my lack of character arc, which kind of gave me a new perspective in respect to all the women who consistently deal with roles like this.”

While the play was long, about three hours in total, the fast changing sets, beautifully performed music, and Finch’s speed in moving up the corporate ladder made the play fly by. The cast had a few setbacks this week with several cast members getting sick, Kilgriff explained, “Everybody is sick because we’ve all been spending so much time together, we’ve infected each other.” There were a few last minute understudies, but they “learned all of their lines, and some even had a song, and they killed it,” she said.

With fresh new alterations to the lyrics of the original songs, lively choreography, and a cast that had audiences on the edge of their seat laughing, the play was a smash hit, and was able to gather a large crowd at each of their five showings. The audience got a chance to see the cast and crew take a 56 year old misogynistic play, and turn it into a show the South community was proud and happy to see.