Einstein mounts “How to Succeed…” with near professional quality showcasing stellar performances, stunning set design, sublime vocals
By Haley Scherer March 25, 2015
All reviews are written by Cappies-NCA student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.
Albert Einstein High School could very well write a piece entitled How to Succeed in Performing a Musical, as they exemplified such knowledge while performing How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying on 15 March 2015. With colorful sets and costume designs, strong lead actors and vocalists, and consistently high energy, at times an audience member might forget that this was indeed a high school drama performance, swept up into the professional-like world that Einstein cast and crew members created.
J. Pierrepont Finch is a window-washer who subscribes himself to the theories of a book (called How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying) and tries to rise through the ranks of a large corporation. Along the way, he comes across characters such as Rosemary Pilkington, a cheerful, amorous secretary, and Bud Frump, the whiny nephew of the lead executive who hired him. The musical itself started as a book written by Shephard Mead in 1952; Frank Loesser adapted it into a musical, and it premiered on Broadway in 1961, a modern musical at the time.
Carlos Castillo (Finch) won the audience over from the very first moment. His engaging physicality exuded confidence and charisma, his facial expressions were charming, he handled fast dialogue with consistently crystal-clear diction, and he scored many laughs from the audience with his deft comedic timing. Vocally, his use of just the right amount of vibrato displayed his technical skill, and his pleasant tenor voice was a highlight of the show.
Lily Habenstreit (Rosemary) added life to her role (which is written as rather one-dimensional), all the time cheery, eager, and genuinely funny and likeable, allowing the audience to sympathize with her. Her excellent vocal technique shone through during each of her solos, which were also important highlights of the show.
Jordan Hill (Bud Frump) positively thrilled the audience every time he came on stage, with his terrific comedic timing and total dedication to character. He threw himself into hilarious dance moves, winning laugh after laugh. From his physicality to his voice, he carried the whiny, obnoxious character of Bud Frump throughout his entire being – without ever being truly annoying to the audience (only hilarious). He first established himself as one of the principal stars of the show in “Coffee Break,” and continued his very successful performance through the end of the show.
The ensembles were dressed colorfully and well, with costumes that grabbed the eye and reflected the 1960’s era. Two numbers really stood out with regard to technicality and high energy: “Coffee Break” and “Brotherhood of Man”. Characters in general rarely disengaged from the action on stage or their characters, and commanded the attention of the audience, especially during these especially energetic numbers.
The set pieces were creatively and skillfully crafted and painted by students. Audience favorites included a realistic-looking elevator (door), sink pieces (used in “Gotta Stop That Man/I Believe in You”), and a conference table that used a mathematical optical illusion technique to make it appear as if the table were really long. Most pieces were mobile, allowing for easier set changes, an important consideration during the design process.
Though sound issues and awkward set changes sometimes broke the spell, for the majority of the musical, it felt as if thespians much older than high school students had put this musical together so successfully. The fact that high school students were able to create such an effect, through the set, costumes, acting, and singing, is truly impressive, and makes for a very memorable show.