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How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

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The Writing of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

Commentary and writing tips by Noel Katz

My favorite musical - and this seems to surprise people - is How To Succeed... It's one of the few musicals that dares to be funny from the first page to the final moment, including every song, and succeeds. Yes, like any musical, it has love songs. In the most famous one, "I Believe In You," the leading man is singing to himself in a bathroom mirror. This isn't just any bathroom, but the Executive Washroom of a Major Corporation, palatial enough to accommodate all sorts of executives, who, during the song, shave using electric shavers. The other executives have a countermelody, and so do the shavers. Yes, as the men shave, the main theme is played (on kazoos, actually, in the orchestra). So, indeed, How To Succeed... has a hit love song, but what a funny one!

It's ideas like that that make Frank Loesser my favorite songwriter. His genius for genuinely original comic ideas has never been matched. And How To Succeed... is full of them. "Been a Long Day" has a mutual friend narrate the thoughts of a couple about to plan their first date ("Now she's thinking: 'I wonder if we take the same bus,' and he's thinking: 'There could be quite a thing between us.'") "The Brotherhood of Man" is a Holy Roller paean to mediocrity. Another love song has the leading man pick up an imaginary baton and conduct the orchestra in the Grieg piano concerto.

Like The Music Man (which Loesser helped shepherd to Broadway), the hero, now and then, seems to be missing some moral qualms, but he's so charming and clever that we have to love him. We have to want him to succeed. The obstacles that he faces are barely bumps in the road, as everybody who works for the Company is, in some way, lame-brained. But it's thrilling to witness the clever moves in his meteoric rise.

Musically, Loesser accomplished a rare feat: he wrote a score set in the present day that still sounds fairly contemporary all these years later. He does this by utilizing harmonies and rhythms most commonly heard in popular jazz. There's the Latin sensuality of "Coffee Break," and the forte eight notes in the bass that punctuate "Cinderella Darling" and the title song. Lyrically, Loesser utilizes terms that aren't often heard in songs, and sets the phrases so naturally they don't call attention to themselves: "Some irresponsible dress manufacturer just didn't play fair." "Executive policy is, by me, O.K." "One chemical substance gets out the lead. "Words like those don't "sing" to most composers, but they did to Loesser.

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DVD

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (DVD) from Amazon.com 1967 Film starring Robert Morse and Michelle Lee.

Cast Recordings

How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Original CastHow to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Deluxe Edition) (1961 Original Broadway Cast) from Amazon.com 34 Songs with bonus tracks not previously released including: Overture, How To, Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm, Coffee Break, The Company Way, The Company Way (Reprise), A Secretary Is Not A Toy, Been A Long Day, Grand Old Ivy, Paris Original, Rosemary, Finaletto Act One, Cinderella, Darling, Love From A Heart Of Gold, I Believe In You, Brotherhood Of Man, Finale, Dear Reader - Walter Cronkite, You Have Alertly Seized Your Opportunitie, Been A Long Day (Reprise) - Luba Mason, How To (Reprise) - Women, So You Are Now A Vice-President - Walter, How To Handle A Disaster... - Walter Cron, By This Time, You Are A Seasoned Executiv, Organization Man, A Secretary Is Not A Toy, I Believe In You - J.J. Johnson, Brotherhood Of Man - Woody Herman And His, Getting The Part - Robert Morse, 'I Believe In You' - Robert Morse, 'The Company Way' - Robert Morse, The Audition - Charles Nelson Reilly, 'Finaletto' - Charles Nelson Reilly, and 'Coffee Break' - Charles Nelson Reilly

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Revival CastHow to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying: The New Broadway Cast Recording (1995 Revival) from Amazon.com Starring Matthew Broderick, Megan Mullally, Victoria Clark, and Lillias White. Songs include: Overture, Dear Reader, How To Succeed, Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm, Coffee Break, You Have Alertly Seized Your Opportunities, The Company Way, The Company Way (Reprise), Entrance Of Hedy LaRue, A Secretary Is Not A Toy, Been A Long Day, Been A Long Day (Reprise), Saturday Morning Ballet, Grand Old Ivy, Paris Original, Rosemary, Act One Finale, Entr'acte, How To Succeed, So You Are Now A Vice President, Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm, Love From A Heart Of Gold, I Believe In You, The Pirate Dance, How To Handle A Disaster, I Believe In You, By This Time, You Are A Seasoned Executive, Brotherhood Of Man, and Finale

Sheet Music

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Vocal Score) from Amazon.com

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Vocal Selections) from Amazon.com Seven songs include: Brotherhood of Man, Grand Old Ivy, Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, I Believe in You, Love from a Heart of Gold, and Paris Original

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