Tony Awards: 1962, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

21 Mar



If you want the original version of Mad Men, here you go.  How To Succeed…was the pinnacle of the late fifties/early sixties satirical musical, and this one has the most bite of all of them (not that it’s very much in the end, but I digress.)  This sort of musical had a simplistic plot (climbing the corporate ladder), an overall theme (corporations), and very soft satire, more like gentle cultural critique towards an American institution.  Earlier examples of this are Damn Yankees, The Pajama Game, and Bye Bye Birdie.   Unlike a book musical (like Oklahoma) the story and the music are secondary to the satire shown, and this grew more and more prominent in the early sixties.   The theme would always drift into the music and dancing, so you’d get songs like A Secretary is Not a Toy, and Coffee Break.  Unlike star vehicles (like anything Merman was in) there wasn’t usually a showstopper song either.

So as it stands, How to Succeed is rather clever, sometimes schticky, sometimes a little too clever for its own good.   I don’t think it has anything really significant to say about corporate culture other than how silly it all can be sometimes.    The music is mostly good, some of it having a little bit of a throwaway feel.   It doesn’t date too well, but this was the last big hit of this kind of musical for awhile.   This was the big hit of the season with nothing else coming close to its success on Broadway, so there’s that.

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