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The Masque


Theatre and Performance Studies


Show History

When Shepherd Mead's book "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" became a huge success, playwright Willie Gilbert and neurosurgeon Jack Weinstock wrote a dramatic adaptation in 1955. The play remained unproduced until 1960, when theatrical agent Abe Newborn brought it to the attention of Broadway producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin, who thought the play could work as a musical. Feuer and Martin had had a huge success with Guys and Dolls in 1950 and asked the authors of that show, librettist Abe Burrows and composer/lyricist Frank Loesser, to write the adaptation. Burrows and Loesser turned it into an hilariously cynical show, with songs as biting and satirical as the book from which they sprang.

Rehearsals began in August, 1961, with Robert Morse, fresh from a Broadway success in Burrows's "Say, Darling," as Finch, the ambitious window washer. Rounding out the principal cast were Charles Nelson Reilly as Bud Frump (the boss's equally ambitious nephew), Bonnie Scott as Rosemary, and 1920s/30s recording star Rudy Vallee as J.B. Biggley (the stuffy philandering company president). The choreography was credited to both Hugh Lambert and Bob Fosse although Fosse, already an experienced choreographer, contributed most of the big ensemble numbers: Lambert's contribution seems to have consisted of mainly the TV Treasure Hunt number. Burrows directed and Loesser co-produced.

The show opened in October, 1 96 1, to almost unanimous raves from the critics. It ran a total of 1,417 performances, winning multiple Tony Awards (including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Director of a Musical, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Supporting Actor in a Musical, ' and Best Musical Director), a New York Drama Critics Circle Award, and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, only the fourth awarded to a musical." (the other 3 were "South Pacific," "A Chorusline," and "Rent")

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How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying