Musical Comedy Hits the Mainstage at Urbana High

Photo | Pam Schipper The cast of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” rehearses “Cinderella Darling” on March 22 at Urbana High School.

Photo | Pam Schipper
The cast of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” rehearses “Cinderella Darling” on March 22 at Urbana High School.

In their final mainstage show of the 2018- 2019 school year, Urbana High School (UHS) Drama will delight audiences once again April 4, 5 and 6 with their production of the musical comedy, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

Originally opening on Broadway in 1961, the popular musical showcases the iconic choreography of eight-time Tony Award-winner Bob Fosse. The UHS production will feature a diverse cast of 46 students.

“This year, I have a bigger senior class than normal, so I needed to select a show that had lots of parts and offered multiple opportunities for underclassmen as well,” said UHS Drama Director Stephen Ward.

Now in his 12th year at UHS and third year as full-time drama director, Ward said the April production will be the first-ever showing on the UHS stage. One of only four musicals to ever win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” is a clever, satirical interpretation of the corporate world in the 1960s.

“The audience should come expecting a high-energy, upbeat show,” said Ward.

After its Broadway debut, New York Times critic Howard Taubman wrote, “It stings mischievously and laughs uproariously. … It belongs to the blue chips among modern musicals.” The story follows the life of young, charming, quick-witted J. Pierrepont Finch as he climbs the corporate ladder from window washer to high-powered executive with the help of a little book he finds called “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

UHS senior Jack Baumgarten, who said he fell in love with musical theater when he was only seven years old, is excited to play the lead role of Finch, as this will be his 11th and final show at Urbana High.

“This show is a satirical comedy that highlights the sexist tendencies that could be found in the workplace in the 1960s,” said Baumgarten. “My character doesn’t have much to do with this part of the show, but the theme is definitely there. Finch is an ambitious, self-focused man who wants to have a better life.”

Playing his second lead in a UHS production, Baumgarten has participated with UHS Drama since he was a freshman. Last summer, he had his first experience playing in a musical comedy when he participated with The Fredericktowne Players’ production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

“To me, one of the greatest challenges for any comedy is line delivery especially in the high school setting. The most rewarding part of any comedy is making the audience laugh. It’s a great feeling,” Baumgarten said.

Ward agreed. “There are challenges with directing any musical, regardless of genre, because there are so many elements—singing, dancing, acting—so it is pretty time-consuming. However, comedy is extremely hard,” Ward said.

In the April production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” Ward found an opportunity to showcase what he considers to be a very special senior class.

“I am blessed with this senior class—this senior class has meant more to me than they will ever know. Rita Scott is a senior who has earned her first leading role as Rosemary Finch, and Tommy Truitt is an individual who was the male lead in both ‘Grease’ and ‘Footloose.’ Tommy is the president of the Thespian Honor Society. Bianca Sanchez plays Smitty, and she is vice president of the Thespian Honor Society. It is going to be a joy to watch these and all the other seniors shine on stage.”

Acknowledging the crucial role also played by the behind-the-scenes theater crew, Ward said he’s also in debt to two crew seniors—stage manager Emily Oquist and assistant stage manager Sean Hanner.

“These two individuals are a part of a trio that I call the ‘Three Musketeers.’ While you may never see Emily on stage, her work is always seen as scenic designer. Emily and Sean are my go-to individuals, and I will miss them both tremendously.”

The UHS production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” is appropriate for all audiences, but viewers should note that it does contain subject matter that might be seen as mature in nature.

“There are many multi-layered performances that the audience will enjoy,” said Ward. “Be prepared to have at least one of the many iconic, catchy songs get stuck in your head. The big dance number featuring all of the men is an exceptional standout. And there is a great tap number with the ladies of the cast.”

While this is the last UHS mainstage show of the school year, additional upcoming shows include Advanced Acting Dinner Theater the first weekend of May, an F-Wing Live Cabaret collaboration of the arts on May 9, and student directed One-Acts the first weekend in June.

Showtimes for “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” are April 4 and 5, 7 p.m., and April 6, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. To purchase, visit


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