The musical comedy How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying debuted on Broadway in 1961, at the height of the era we now know as the Mad Men years. Skinny ties, martinis, and lust were then the stock in trade of the business executive, invariably a white male, who ruled his domain of the corporate headquarters unchallenged and unchecked. When women were present — which was not always — they performed secretarial duties and were expected to supplement those functions with other, less professional qualities designed to appeal to and influence their bosses. Success was something that guys did, and doing it made women want them, or so the story went in that time and place.
Thanks to a team of experienced Broadway writers, and in particular to the genius of composer and lyricist Frank Loesser, this big cartoon of a musical captures the irony of the culture it portrays and uses satire to poke fun at sexist stereotypes even as it trades in them. Double entendres abound in numbers like “A Secretary Is Not a Toy,” which uses a topical reference to F.A.O. Schwartz to set up the couplet, “A secretary is not a pet / nor an erector set.”
The Theater Group at City College under the direction of R. Michael Gros is sure to do a spectacular job bringing this period piece into the 21st century with all the bold colors and razzle dazzle that earned it two recent Broadway revivals, one with Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullally in 1995, and the other with Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette in 2011. For tickets and information, visit theatergroupsbcc.com or call the box office at 965-5935.