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PEMCo’s Production Succeeds

By MADELINE DALY | Thursday, February 21, 2013


As I entered the auditorium in Washington Hall on Tuesday night, I walked into a flurry of 1960s business men and women, clad in black tie suits and tweed shift dresses, heels clicking across the stage, hair perfectly slicked and teased. The dress rehearsal for Pasquerilla East Music Company’s (PEMCo) spring musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” had begun, and I was lucky enough to be one of the few outside spectators.  

Excitement surrounded the stage as anxious actors tested their microphones and practiced their lines, stepping easily into their classic roles. From the first five minutes I could tell I would enjoy the show, especially because of the parallels to one of my favorite TV series Mad Men. Both shows are full of scandalous relationships between ad men and their secretaries, dark-rimmed glasses, New York accents, tight pencil skirts and an overall tone of the Kennedy era in the 1960s that I wish I had lived through.

Senior Erin Marks – who plays Miss Jones, the secretary of head honcho Mr. Biggley-continued the Mad Men metaphor when describing the show. 

“Basically, it’s as if Mad Men were a musical, but with goofier characters,” Marks said. “There are lots of great laughs, peppy, brassy music and plenty of dancing.  If only we could all sing and dance at the end of a board meeting in real life!”

The musical itself is a comedy revolving around the employees of a large New York company, highlighting the stereotypical line between the secretaries and the business men present in the 60s.  Between the women singing with sap over a secretary considering marriage during the song “Cinderella, Darling” to the men linking elbows while singing “Brotherhood of Men” (my favorite number, by the way, including flips and dancing on tables), the two opposing sexes are like separate entities in the same office. 

The plot stems from the character J. Pierrepont Finch and tells his rags-to-riches story through the reading of a book called “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”  As Finch sat at his desk reading the book, the voice of Mike Collins, the Notre Dame football announcer, resonated through the auditorium. The Broadway musical has featured voiceovers from Anderson Cooper and Walter Cronkite, so Collins fits perfectly into the role with his strong, easily-recognizable voice. Mirroring once again the characters in Mad Men like Don Draper, Finch not only uses the book to succeed but also uses his clever, scheming mind to climb to the top, taking his peers down by whatever means necessary.  

Because of their greed and competitive nature, the other men hold a grudge against Finch and work together to “Stop That Man,” as the song in Act II describes. The show is full of tension in and out of the office surrounding work promotions and marriage proposals. I had trouble peeling my eyes off the stage amid the flashy dances and era-appropriate costumes.  

Although focused on the small details and imperfections, the dress rehearsal I watched was just as enjoyable as the final show will be because of the actors’ enthusiasm and talent.  Even on their third or fourth run-through of a song, the actors hit every note and nailed each dance move, displaying their immense talent and clear passion for the stage. The red-lipped smiles of the actresses opened into ringing chords and the actors harmonized perfectly, causing goosebumps at the end of each big number.  Also, although faceless to the audience, the orchestra and stagehands beautifully complemented the talent on stage. Between the melodies of music coming from behind the stage to the swift movements of intricate props in between scenes, everyone’s combined work made for an amazing show.

Performances run Thursday through Saturday  at 7:30 p.m. in Washington Hall. Tickets are available at the LaFortune Box Office, $6 for students and $8 for general admission.  

Contact Madline Daly at
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