Michael Rhone completely understands the feeling of going into a business meeting and discovering that he may not have been as prepared as he thought he was.
“There is definitely some level of making it up as you go along,” said Rhone, who has worked in the high-tech field for the past 20 years. “I probably shouldn’t admit that too much, but there are times that I’ve had to think on my feet to dig myself out of a hole, absolutely.”
It is that experience that Rhone takes into his latest venture. A long time community theatre performer and singer, Rhone will be tackling the meaty role of J. Pierrepont Finch in Foothill Music Theatre’s production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” which runs through August 12th.
The story, adapted from Shepherd Mead’s satiric novel of the same name, follows the meteoric rise of Finch, who scales the corporate ladder in a hurry. His success is in great part thanks to an instruction manual that takes him from a humble window cleaner to the top rung of the World-Wide Wicket Company. He befriends company president J.B. Biggley (Walter M. Mayes), battles Biggley’s nephew Bud Frump (David Mister) and charms the socks off secretary Rosemary Pilkington (Corrie Borris).
The show is another collaboration between, among others, Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows, who wrote the classic Damon Runyon musical “Guys and Dolls.” The show’s popular playlist, which includes hits such as “I Believe in You,” “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm,” and “The Company Way,” contributed to 1962’s Pulitzer Prize for drama, a year after its original Broadway debut. The show also has experienced a renaissance in recent years thanks to a highly touted revival featuring young stars in the lead role at different times, including Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Darren Criss (Glee) and Nick Jonas (The Jonas Brothers).
Directed by Jay Manley, who also founded Foothill Music Theatre in 1985, this is easily the biggest role Rhone has ever had. He described how intricate everything must be prepared beforehand, considering the amount of time he is on the stage, which includes virtually all of act two. This includes factors such as when he could simply sit for a moment or get a drink of water. But Rohne said what has helped him immensely is his prior experience with Manley.
“I’ve worked with Jay lots of times, but the bigger the role, more time he spends with you talking about character choices and notes,” said Rohne. “Because we have worked together several times, there is already a relationship built and a level of trust that is already there, which is nice.”
The show is obviously a classic, and with that, there are plenty of moments where it might feel a bit dated. For example, nowadays, some of Finch’s behaviors might be construed as sexual harassment, but for the time, they could be considered silly office hi-jinks. But where the show is more pointed is when it comes to the parallels that exist between the corporate world then and now.
“The satire of the show is fairly gentle, but it does poke fun of business practices in the business world,” said Rhone. “The last few years, there’s been a lot of news about compensation and malpractice, and the CEO of a company perhaps is not always working with best interest of the company in his mind.”
Still, the show’s strength is to bring out the themes and the story with maximum hilarity. To that end, Rhone and his cast mates seem to be having a ball.
“The show is a lot of fun, very funny, and it’s a show people are really going to enjoy,” said Rhone. “There are aspects of our lives that have changed since, but still I think a lot of it is pointed and works on some level today.”
A SPECIAL TREAT: National and San Francisco Giants legendary broadcaster Jon Miller, a Bay Area native, will be lending his talents to the production as the voice-over narration.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO GO
Foothill Music Theatre presents “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”
Book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert
Music & Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Based on the novel by Shepherd Mead
Directed by Jay Manley
Musical direction by Catherine Snider
Choreography by Dottie Lester-White.
Thursdays – Saturdays at 8 pm
Sundays at 2 pm
Through August 12th
The Smithwick Theatre on the Campus of Foothill College
12345 El Monte Rd (El Monte exit West, off Hwy 280), Los Altos Hills
Parking in Student Parking Lot 1, or use Lot 5 for no-stairs access. $3 parking permit required
Tickets range from $10 – $28
For tickets, call (650) 949-7360 or visit www.foothillmusicals.com