ACT succeeds in entertainment with fast-paced musical farce

Courtesy Photo by Bronwyn Woolman In center, soloist Marlo Broad sings from a chair while Bill Powell, at left, Joe Rybarczyk, crouching in center, and David Usher, at right, clap and sing along.

Get ready to laugh nonstop on the way to the top with “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” at Alpena Civic Theatre.

The nearly three-hour musical with 15 high-energy numbers may sound like too much, but it flies by as the audience claps and cackles along all the way to intermission, which comes at a whopping hour and forty-five minutes. But you’re not likely to notice the time as you follow the wild ride of young aspiring businessman J. Pierrepont Finch, who starts as a window-washer and works his way up the ranks in the World Wide Wicket Company, in no time at all.

Finch is played by Joe Rybarczyk, who embodies the positivity and ingenuity required to succeed in this role, which he does.

He gets this big idea from a book that gives him step-by-step instructions, starting with finding “a company just big enough that nobody knows what anybody else is doing.”

Finch starts in the mail room, where his antagonist appears — a nasally nuisance nephew named Bud Frump, who hates Finch from the start and wants him to fail. Frump, played by Matt Southwell, can do and say just about anything he wants, and he does, since his uncle is the head of the company, J.B. Biggley, played by David Usher. Biggley can’t stand his nephew, but has to keep him on staff to please his wife.

Courtesy Photo by Bronwyn Woolman Alpena Civic Theatre’s Matt Southwell plays Bud Frump, the boss’s spoiled, incompetent nephew who weasels his way into everything, trying to foil protagonist Finch’s plans in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

“I know blood is thicker than water, but Bud Frump is thicker than anything,” Biggley says.

Be warned, though, Biggley has a big mouth on him, spewing out curse words here and there. But older children would still enjoy this production, as it is lively and entertaining the whole way through.

Southwell is hilariously and diabolically annoying, poking his head into Finch’s business at every turn, trying to fudge up his plans for success.

Usher is animated, temperamental and borderline scary (if you’re one of his underlings, that is), but he does exhibit a softer side, as he enjoys knitting. He is also a die-hard fan of his alma mater, whose mascot is a groundhog.

Those seeking comedy will not be disappointed with a fantastic performance by Tracie Papin as the gum-smacking airhead Hedy LaRue. A red beehive of hair is piled atop a very small brain, and a very small dress covers a body that causes all the men’s jaws to drop when she walks in the room. But once she opens her mouth, a whiny voice that rivals nails on a chalkboard mispronounces and misuses words left and right. And just wait, because Papin keeps this ear-piercing voice up even while singing, which draws uproarious laughter from the crowd.

As for the other singing and dancing, the eyes and ears will be pleased with this musical, a huge undertaking for Director Pat Jacques. The choreography is delightful and musical accompaniment is flawless.

Notable soloists include Rybarczyk and Olivia Martin, who plays secretary Rosemary Pilkington. She is “happy to keep his dinner warm til he comes wearily home from downtown,” and she’s not afraid to sing about her fantasy of becoming his wife.

This musical is set in the 1960s, a time when many men ran off to work in their business suits and women either stayed home or worked as secretaries.

Also worth noting is a wonderful debut performance on the ACT stage by Angelina Burcar, who plays Smitty, Rosemary’s right-hand woman. Burcar’s beautiful voice resembles that of Fiona Apple or Nora Jones, with a melodic tone and subtle vibrato.

Marlo Broad offers a talented soprano solo as Miss Jones, secretary to J.B. Biggley. Excellent dancing is shown throughout, including a lovely soft-shoe number by Marilyn Kettler as Miss Krumholtz and Karl Heidemann as Mr. Bert Bratt.

The cast also includes Natalie Dozier as Matthews, Heidemann as Davis, Jacques as Mr. Twimble, Scott Ickes as Mr. Milton Gatch and Toynbee, Bill Powell as Mr. Wally Womper, Nick Stone as Tackaberry, Kial Wade as Jenkins, and Jolee Greer and Linda Suneson as scrubwomen. Chorus members are Jessica Black, Dozier, Greer, Heidemann, Stone, Suneson, Doug Niergarth, Bob Stelyk and Jim Phillips.

Choreographers are Becky Saddler and Marilyn Kettler. Jean Brown-Baker is musical director, David Delano is on keyboards, and Randy Bouchard is on drums.

Carol Rundell is the producer. Jay Kettler is assistant director. His wife Marilyn Kettler has helped with the choreography and is doing the costuming. Stage manager is Doreen Kriniak, assisted by Jackie Gruhlke.

This musical is based on the 1952 book of the same name by Shepherd Mead. It was adapted into a musical in 1961 by Jacob Weinstock, Willie Gilbert and Abe Burrows. Music was composed by Frank Loesser.

The show is dedicated to the memory of Evelyn Hunter, who contributed her talents to the Alpena Civic Theatre for 40 years before passing away recently.

For tickets, call the box office at 989-354-3624.

Darby Hinkley can be reached by phone at 989-358-5691 or by email at dhinkley@thealpenanews.com.

“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”

Alpena Civic Theatre

May 15, 17-19

7:30 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday

2 p.m. Sunday


$14 per adult

$8 per student

Box office:


401 River Street