How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a
musical with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by
Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert, based on
Shepherd Mead's 1952 book of the same name.
The musical opened at the 46th Street Theatre on Broadway
in October 1961, running for 1,417 performances. The
show won seven Tony Awards, the New York Drama Critics
Circle award, and the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In
1967, a film based on the musical was released by United
Artists, with many of the original cast recreating their roles.
A 1995 revival was mounted at the same theater as the
original production (now named the Richard Rodgers
Theatre), and ran for 548 performances, and starred
Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullally.
A new revival starring Daniel Radcliffe is scheduled to open
on Broadway in March 2011.
In 1952, Shepherd Mead's satirical book, How to Succeed in
Business Without Really Trying, became a bestseller.
Playwright Willie Gilbert and fellow playwright Jack
Weinstock created a dramatic interpretation in 1955 that
was unproduced for five years. Agent Abe Newborn brought
the work to the attention of producers Cy Feuer and Ernest
Martin, with the intention of retooling it as a musical. Feuer
and Martin had great success with the 1950 adaptation of
Guys and Dolls and brought in the creative team from that
show to work on How to.... Abe Burrows and Frank Loesser
set to work on the new adaptation, with rehearsals beginning
in August 1961. Burrows collaborated on the book with Jack
Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, also serving as director. Their
new adaptation became even more satirical and added
romance to the story. Loesser wrote both music and lyrics
for the show.
The original Broadway production credited the choreography
to an obscure dance director named Hugh Lambert, while
the much better-known Bob Fosse received only a "musical
staging by..." credit. Abe Burrows explains this in his
autobiography Honest, Abe. While How to Succeed... was in
its early development, producer Cy Feuer attended a trade
show and was extremely impressed by an elaborate dance
number created by Lambert, prompting Feuer to hire
Lambert to choreograph the new musical. According to
Burrows, it soon became clear in rehearsals that Lambert's
creative abilities were completely used up in that one
elaborate dance number. Bob Fosse was brought in to
replace him, but Fosse was unwilling to hurt Lambert's
career by having him fired. Lambert's trade-show dance
number was recycled as the "Treasure Hunt" dance in How
to Succeed..., while Fosse agreed to take a "musical
staging" credit for choreographing all the other dance
numbers. Burrows also reveals that another crisis arose in
rehearsals when former recording star Rudy Vallee wanted
to interpolate some of his hit songs from the 1930s.
J. Pierrepont Finch, a young window cleaner, has a mind for
advancement. A disembodied "Book Voice" tells him that
everything he needs for success is contained within the
book in his hand, How to Succeed in Business Without
Really Trying. He enters the World Wide Wicket Company
searching for a job.
Finch knocks J.B. Biggley, the president of the company, to
the ground. Finch presses Biggley for a job, who dismisses
him to the personnel manager, Mr. Bratt. Rosemary
Pilkington, a secretary, is impressed with Finch and offers to
help him meet Mr. Bratt. Bratt treats Finch brusquely until
Finch mentions he was referred to Bratt by Mr. Biggley.
Finch is given a job in the mailroom, where he works with
Mr. Biggley's lazy and nepotism-minded nephew Bud
Frump. Rosemary dreams of a life with Finch in the suburbs
and tells her friend Smitty that she'd be "Happy to Keep his
The fatigued workers rush to get their "Coffee break", only to
find it bone dry. The Book Voice warns Finch, "One word of
caution about the mailroom: it is a place out of which you
must get." Twimble, head of the mailroom, is moving to the
shipping department. He tells Finch that the secret to
longevity at the company is to play things "The Company
Way". Twimble appoints Finch as his successor, but Finch,
heeding the words of his trusty book, declines the
promotion, saying that Bud Frump is more qualified. Frump
accepts, vowing to play things "The Company Way", too.
Twimble and Bratt are impressed by Finch, and Bratt offers
him a job as a junior executive in the Plans and Systems
department, headed by Mr. Gatch. Frump, seeing that he
has been outdone, fumes.
A sexy but air-headed woman named Hedy LaRue calls the
office searching for a job, and Bratt brings her in to be
assigned secretary. The employees see her and are
instantly attracted to her, but Bratt, in order to preserve his
relationship with Hedy, reminds them "A Secretary is Not a
It is Friday afternoon, just after five o'clock. As the
employees make their way to the elevators, the ever-alert
Finch learns that Biggley is extremely proud of his alma
mater, Old Ivy, and learns that he will be in the office
Saturday morning. Rosemary and Smitty encounter Finch at
the elevator. They agree that it's "Been a Long Day", and
Smitty helps them arrange a date. Frump runs into Bratt and
Hedy, arguing about her job. Frump realizes their
relationship and blackmails Bratt into giving him a
Finch arrives early Saturday morning in order to appear that
he has been working all night. Biggley arrives and witnesses
Finch "asleep" at his desk. Finch "absent-mindedly" begins
humming "Grand Old Ivy", the Old Ivy fight song. Finch
convinces the Old Man that he, too, is a proud alumnus.
Biggley insists that Finch be given his own office and
secretary, Hedy, prompting the Book Voice to warn Finch to
beware of secretaries who have many talents, none of them
secretarial. Finch realizes that Biggley must be her
advocate, and sends her on an errand to Gatch, knowing
that he won't be able to resist making a pass at her. Finch is
soon seated behind Gatch's desk, Gatch having been
dispatched to Venezuela.
A reception for the new Advertising Department head,
Benjamin Burton Daniel Ovington, is being held, and
Rosemary hopes to impress Finch with her new "Paris
Original", but all the women of the office are wearing
identical copies of the dress. Hedy tipsily exits to shower in
Biggley's office, and Frump, hoping to trap Finch and Hedy,
tells Finch that Biggley is waiting in his office for him. In the
office, as Hedy and Finch are kissing passionately, Finch
realizes that he is in love with "Rosemary", who enters as
Hedy returns to the bathroom. After some farcical
complications, Finch and Rosemary embrace—just in time
for Frump and Biggley to walk through the door.
Ovington resigns after being prompted for his alma mater by
Finch; Biggley realizes that Ovington matriculated from Old
Ivy's bitter rival. Biggley a loyal "Ground Hog" cannot stand
another day of the "Chipmunk" Ovington. Then, Biggley
names Finch Vice-President in Charge of Advertising, just in
time for a big meeting two days hence. Biggley leaves as
Finch and Rosemary declare their love for "J. Pierrepont
Finch", and Bud Frump vows to return.
 Act II
It is the morning of the big meeting, and Rosemary is feeling
neglected by Finch. She decides to quit, but her fellow
secretaries convince her to stay: she's living their dream of
marrying an executive and becoming "Cinderella, Darling.".
(In the 1995 revival, this song was replaced with a reprise of
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, with the
lyrics suggesting ways in which a girl can get hold of a
man's financial assets).
The book warns Finch that as Vice-President of Advertising,
he needs a brilliant idea. Bud Frump slyly tells Finch about
his idea for a treasure hunt. Finch loves the idea, unaware
that Biggley has already heard the idea and shot it down.
Finch bounces the idea off Rosemary, who tells him that, no
matter what, she'd be "Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm"
Hedy tells Biggley she is extremely unhappy with her
secretarial duties and is leaving for California. He begs her
to stay, and they declare their "Love From a Heart of Gold."
In the executive washroom, Frump assures the others that
Finch's plan will fail and, with it, his career. Finch enters and
gives himself a pep talk, telling himself "I Believe in You."
Finch presents "his" idea: he will hide five thousand shares
of company stock in each of the ten offices around the
country and give the audience weekly clues as to their
whereabouts. Biggley is about to reject this idea yet again,
when Finch explains that each clue will be given by the
scantily-dressed World Wide Wicket Girl: Miss Hedy LaRue.
During the first television show, Hedy is asked to swear on a
Bible that she doesn't know the location of the prizes. Hedy,
whom Biggley had told the night before where the treasure
was hidden, panics and reveals the locations to the entire
television audience. The book tells Finch, "How To Handle a
Disaster. ...we suggest that your best bet is to review the
first chapter of this book: 'How to Apply for a Job' ".
Treasure hunters have wrecked World Wide Wicket
Company offices across the country, and the executives,
including Chairman of the Board Wally Womper, are waiting
in Biggley's office for Finch's resignation. Rosemary tells
Finch "I Believe in You". About to sign his letter of
resignation, Finch mentions that he'll probably be going back
to washing windows. Womper is drawn to Finch as he, too,
was a washer of windows and that they both "had a book",
Wally's book being a book of betting records. Finch
manages to place the blame for the treasure hunt on Bud,
also mentioning that Frump is Biggley's nephew. Womper is
about to "clean house from top to bottom", when Finch steps
in on everyone's behalf. Finch tells the executives that
they're all part of the "Brotherhood of Man." Everyone is
spared, except Frump, who is fired because he is Biggley's
Biggley is still president, Womper is retiring to travel the
world with his new wife, Hedy, and Finch will become
Chairman of the Board. Rosemary stands by his side and
inadvertently inspires him to aspire for Presidency of the
United States. Bud Frump is lowered on a window-washing
scaffold, outside the building, squeegee in one hand and
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in the