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Rosemary, left, played by Natalie Shaw and Smitty, played by Samantha Raun, sing their parts during the Trollwood Performing Arts School production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying on the opening night Wednesday, July 16, 2014, at Bluestem Center for the Arts in Moorhead. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Trollwood's open for business: 'How to Succeed' cast delivers strong performance

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MOORHEAD – The Trollwood Performing Arts School got down to business Wednesday with the opening of its mainstage musical at the Bluestem Center for the Arts.


While the stage was awash in a mid-century modern color palette, vintage props and characters dressed in the finest 1960s fashion, the cast of local teens – born long after the 1961 premiere of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” – for the most part successfully pulled off the classic musical comedy in front of an audience of about 1,000.

Luckily for the young performers, born decades after this era, the rules of navigating the corporate ladder – and handling the intricacies of romance – still apply today.

“How to Succeed” centers on ambitious window washer J. Pierrepont Finch (Nathan Potts), who follows the steps in his handy book of the same name to rise to the top of the World Wide Wicket Company.

Finch might have the book, the perfect coif and plenty of self-confidence, but he still must avoid the pitfalls of corporate life – falling in love with the pretty secretary Rosemary Pilkington (Natalie Shaw), deflecting the sabotage of the boss’ incompetent nephew, Bud Frump (Joe Gartner), and resisting the seducing ways of the newest secretary, Hedy La Rue (Hannah Stibbe).

Potts does a great job holding down the main role, perfectly portraying the self-assured and eager Finch, even as the character stumbles through unexpected setbacks. He had one of the better voices on stage on Wednesday night, solid during each of his songs, and Potts pulled off the charismatic character with flying colors.

Shaw, too, was a good choice to portray Finch’s love interest, Rosemary. While there were moments of her vocals being too quiet or restrained, she had a captivating stage presence and a solid voice throughout much of the show.

But the main stars were beat out for the audience’s attention – and laughs – by a couple of the more minor characters, Gartner’s nepotism-dependent nephew Frump and Samantha Raun’s wise-but-cynical secretary Smitty. The two stole most of their scenes, especially Gartner, who portrayed his character’s laziness, dramatic flair and desire for undeserved success to perfection.

Wednesday’s production had its share of minor issues – the set’s elevator doors opened at an angle early into the show, microphones weren’t turned on quickly enough to broadcast a few actors’ lines, and some of the actors portraying the minor roles suffered through quick stumbles, possibly prompted by opening night jitters.

Overall, though, the Trollwood crew delivered a strong performance, and the set’s retro color scheme and vintage details were a marvel to look at.

Decades after it became a part of pop culture, “How to Succeed” is still a success on the stage for Trollwood in 2014.


What: “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” presented by Trollwood Performing Arts School

Where: Bluestem Amphitheater, 801 50th Ave. S., Moorhead

When: 8:30 p.m. July 17-19; July 23-26; July 30-Aug. 2

Info: Tickets $10-$30; visit or call the box office at (218) 477-6502


Ryan Johnson
After four years of covering news for the Grand Forks Herald and The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Ryan Johnson has been a features reporter for The Forum's Variety section since 2013. His prior beats included politics, business, city government and higher education. Johnson is a 2008 alumnus of the University of North Dakota. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to
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