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PEMCo. to premiere ‘How to Succeed in Business’

Lesley Stevenson | Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The opening of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” this weekend will mark the culmination of nearly one year’s worth of preparation for the Pasquerilla East Musical Company (PEMCo.).

“This season started with ‘Next to Normal’ back in October, but really the whole process of this started in the beginning of March last year,” senior PEMCo. producer Nathan Williams said.

“How to Succeed” is the second show in PEMCo’s 2012-13 lineup and Williams said he is pleased with the group’s progress as Thursday’s opening night nears.

“It’s really come together in a fun way I think,” Williams said. “I’d seen it before and I didn’t like it; I thought it was dated and sexist, but then watching this whole vibe of the ’60s and this whole nostalgic kind of thing, it’s really fun.”

Sophomore director Shannon Kirk explained that the show’s seemingly-sexist humor is satirical.

“It’s similar to ‘Mad Men’ in that when you’re watching it, obviously the characters aren’t self-aware that it’s sexist,” Kirk said. “It’s just from our perspective of watching it and how the actors portray it now. You have the retrospective awareness, and it adds so many more layers to [the show] from when it originally premiered.”

Kirk noted that the recent popularity of ’60s-era television shows like “Mad Men” influenced the choice of “How to Succeed” after the group was unable to secure rights to the original selection, “My Fair Lady.”

“With this we were trying to think of things that people would want to audition for and people would want to come see,” Kirk said.

While the show wasn’t the troupe’s first choice, Kirk said she is pleased with the outcome.

“I’m actually really glad we got to do this,” she said. “‘My Fair Lady’ is probably a better show overall if it’s done perfectly, but this is definitely a more fun show to do in terms of ensemble involvement, and this is more of a comedy.”

Williams said while keeping the cast focused and motivated could be challenging, ultimately the entertaining rehearsals and valuable friendships formed made the long process worthwhile.

“I think part of the challenge is just maintaining it over such a long process,” he said. “We started with auditions in late October and rehearsals right after that … and then there’s a month off in the middle.”

Despite the demands of a lengthy schedule, Kirk praised her cast’s commitment to the show.

“Energy hasn’t been much of a problem actually,” she said. “I think people just really enjoy the show and they kind of feed off each other’s energy and the energy the music is bringing.”

Kirk whittled the cast down from 100 hopefuls who turned up at the first auditions to the final cast of around 25 people, Williams said.

During callbacks, Kirk said she was able to customize the somewhat-flexible characters to fit the potential actors.

“[The main character] Finch could be very cute and ambitious, or he could be very conniving, and I like the cute, ambitious one better because then by the end of the show you’re not sick of him,” Kirk said.

As a nonacademic organization, PEMCo. offers an opportunity for a diverse array of students – across both majors and class years – to collaborate together.

In his PEMCo. debut, freshman Joel Ostdiek portrays rising business star J. Pierrepont Finch.

“Joel’s doing great,” Williams said before Tuesday night’s dress rehearsal.

Senior Claire Lis, who plays Rosemary Pilkington, agreed.

“He came in at the first rehearsal and was thanking everyone and talking about how honored he was to be there,” she said.

“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” opens at Washington Hall Thursday at 7:30 pm. Tickets can be purchased in the LaFortune Box Office.