How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

This is about the musical. For the film, see How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967 film).

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a stage musical based on the book by Shepherd Mead.



J. Pierrepont Finch, a young window cleaner in New York City, reads the book "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" as he works. The "Book Voice" tells him that he will succeed if he follows the book's advice. He enters the World Wide Wicket Company searching for a job.

Finch bumps into J.B. Biggley, the president of the company, who dismisses him to the personnel manager, Mr. Bratt. Rosemary Pilkington, a pretty, young secretary, helps Finch meet Mr. Bratt. Finch tells Bratt that Biggley sent him, and Bratt gives him a job in the mailroom, where he works with Mr. Biggley's lazy, arrogant, and nepotism-minded nephew Bud Frump. Rosemary dreams of a life with Finch in the suburbs. The fatigued workers rush to get their coffee break. In the mailroom, Finch earns favor with the long-time head of the mailroom, Mr. Twimble, who tells him the secret to longevity at the company.

Twimble is promoted to head of the shipping department and has to choose his replacement as head of the mailroom. The book warns not to stay in the mailroom too long, so Finch recommends Frump instead of himself. Twimble is reluctant to promote the lazy Frump, but Frump promises to be a good employee. Twimble and Bratt are impressed by Finch's apparent selflessness, and Bratt offers him a job as a junior executive in the Plans and Systems department, headed by Mr. Gatch.

An extremely attractive but air-headed woman named Hedy LaRue, who is Mr. Biggley's secret mistress, is hired as a secretary. On her first day of work, the male employees are instantly attracted to her, but Mr. Bratt warns them against taking advantage of their employees. Finch learns from Mr. Biggley's secretary, Miss Jones, that Biggley is a proud alumnus of Old Ivy college. In the elevator at the end of the workday, Rosemary's fellow secretary Smitty helps her and Finch set up a date. Frump runs into Biggley and Hedy and realizes their relationship, and he blackmails Biggley into giving him a promotion.

Finch arrives early Saturday morning and sets up the office so it looks like he has been working all night. Biggley believes Finch's ruse, and Finch convinces Biggley that he, too, is a proud alumnus of Old Ivy (a "groundhog"), and they sing the Old Ivy fight song. Biggley insists that Finch be given his own office and secretary, Hedy. With the book's help, Finch realizes that Biggley must be Hedy's advocate and sends her on an errand to Gatch, knowing that Gatch will make a pass at her. Gatch falls for the trap and is dispatched to Venezuela, and Finch is promoted to his position as head of Plans and Systems.

At a reception for the new Advertising Department head, Benjamin Burton Daniel Ovington, Rosemary hopes to impress Finch with her new "Paris original" dress, but all the other women arrive at the reception wearing the same dress. Frump schemes for Biggley to catch Finch kissing LaRue in his office, but after LaRue blackmails Finch into kissing her, he realizes he's actually in love with Rosemary. After some farcical complications, Frump and Biggley walk into the office just as Finch embraces Rosemary. Ovington is forced to resign when Biggley learns that he is a graduate from Northern State (a "chipmunk"), Old Ivy's bitter rival. Biggley names Finch Vice-President in Charge of Advertising. Biggley leaves as Finch and Rosemary declare their love for each other, and Bud Frump vows revenge.

Two days later, Rosemary has been neglected by Finch. She decides to quit, but her fellow secretaries convince her to stay because she's living their dream of marrying an executive. The book warns Finch that because Vice-President of Advertising is a bad position, he needs a brilliant idea. Bud Frump slyly tells Finch his idea for a treasure hunt, which Finch loves, unaware that Biggley has already heard the idea and rejected it. Finch shares the idea with Rosemary, who tells him that she'll stay with him no matter what happens. Hedy tells Biggley that she is unhappy as a secretary and is leaving for California. He begs her to stay and tells her he loves her, and she agrees to stay. In the executive washroom, Finch gives himself a pep talk while, behind his back, the other executives and Frump plot against him.

Finch presents "his" idea to Biggley: he will hide five thousand shares of company stock in each of the ten offices around the country and give a television audience weekly clues as to their whereabouts. Biggley accepts this idea when Finch explains that each clue will be given by the scantily-dressed World Wide Wicket Treasure Girl: Miss Hedy LaRue.

During the first television show, Hedy is asked to swear on a Bible that she doesn't know the location of the prizes. Hedy panics and reveals the locations to the entire television audience, which prompts all the Wicket employees to tear apart the offices looking for them. The book tells Finch, "How To Handle a Disaster. ...We suggest that your best bet if you are the cause of the Disaster is to review the first chapter of this book: 'How to Apply for a Job' ".

The executives, including Chairman of the Board Wally Womper, are waiting in Biggley's office for Finch's resignation. Rosemary again tells Finch that she'll stand by him no matter what. About to sign his letter of resignation, Finch mentions that he'll probably go back to washing windows. Womper is drawn to Finch as he, too, was a window washer and they both "had a book": Wally's book was a book of betting records. Finch blames the treasure hunt on Frump, also mentioning that Frump is Biggley's nephew. Womper is about to "clean house from top to bottom", when Finch steps in on everyone's behalf. Finch tells the executives that even though the business world is a place filled with betrayal and competitiveness, the World Wide Wicket staff is like a family to him. Everyone is spared except Frump, who is fired because he is Biggley's nephew.

Biggley remains president, Womper retires to travel the world with his new wife, Hedy, and Finch becomes Chairman of the Board. Rosemary stands by his side and inadvertently inspires him to aspire for the Presidency of the United States. Frump gets a job washing windows, swearing revenge against Finch.

Musical numbers

Act I

  • "How to Succeed" - J. Pierrepont Finch
  • "Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm" - Rosemary Pilkington
  • "Coffee Break" - Smitty, Bud Frump, and Chorus
  • "Company Way" - Finch and Twimble
  • "Company Way" (Reprise) - Bud, Twimble, and Company
  • "A Secretary is Not a Toy" - Bratt, Bud, and Men
  • "Been a Long Day" - Smitty, Finch, and Rosemary
  • "Been a Long Day" (Reprise) - Bud, J.B. Biggley, and Hedy LaRue
  • "Grand Old Ivy" - Finch and Biggley
  • "Paris Original" - Rosemary, Smitty, Miss Jones, and Girls
  • "Rosemary" - Finch and Rosemary
  • "Act I Finale" - Finch, Rosemary, and Bud

Act II

  • "Cinderella, Darling" - Smitty and Girls

1995 revival replacement:*"How to Succeed" (Reprise)

  • "Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm" (Reprise) - Rosemary
  • "Love From a Heart of Gold" - Biggley and Hedy
  • "I Believe in You" - Finch and Men
  • "I Believe in You" (Reprise) - Rosemary
  • "Brotherhood of Man" - Finch, Wally Womper, Miss Jones, and Men
  • "Company Way" (Finale) - Company
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