Hard-boiled 1950s businessmen are matching musical notes as well as wits this weekend while they battle their way up the corporate ladder, in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" at the Las Positas College outdoor amphitheater.
"We love producing shows in the amphitheater. The interaction with our patrons always energizes our cast and crew," producer Titian Lish said. "This is a great show for the entire family."
Big business means big laughs in this case.
The comedy took Broadway by storm in 1961, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical and a Pulitzer Prize. "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" has a score by Frank Loesser that includes "I Believe in You," "Brotherhood of Man," "Coffee Break" and "The Company Way."
The musical is directed by Las Positas College faculty member Ken Ross.
"'How to Succeed' is the perfect kind of musical for our outdoor summer production," Ross said. "It's light, energetic, melodic and very funny."
"We've assembled an excellent cast and production team that is creating what will be a high-quality show that's very entertaining," he added.
Ross teaches classes and has directed many of the college's plays and musicals. He is also a professional actor and stage performer, primarily in musicals.
This musical, based on the 1952 satirical book of the same name, follows young J. Pierrepont Finch, who, with the help of the book "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," rises from window washer to chairman of the board at the World Wide Wicket Co.
Music director is Mark Dietrich; choreographer is Morgan Mulholand.
"It is a wonderfully funny, campy show. We love it for its charm and silliness, and we think that makes it ideal for a night of escapism," said producer Lish, also a faculty member.
The theater department performs in the amphitheater once each year for only one weekend, she noted.
"The acoustics are wonderful, but we use microphones and a sound system for the comfort of all of our patrons and the safety of our young artists' vocal development," Lish said.
"We have a live, full orchestra each night, comprised of students from our own LPC music program and local professional musicians. We are so lucky to have such dedicated artists in the pit," she added.
The cast has 32 members, mostly students, although Las Positas College productions are open to all who want to perform.
"We encourage students and try to take our own students, but we also encourage community members to audition for all our shows," Lish said.
Las Positas is a community college, she explained, and, as such, offers acting opportunities to members of the community to help them continue to develop their talents.
"We often get alumni who have transferred to a four-year college and are home for the summer," Lish said.
Auditions will be held in August for the fall semester's productions, "The Addams Family" musical and "Silent Sky." Some sent audition tapes for last March's tryouts for "How to Succeed."
Performances, only this weekend, begin at 8 p.m., but the amphitheater opens at 7 p.m., a chance for patrons to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of sound checks and orchestra preparation while they enjoy a picnic dinner. Food trucks are selling Latin food and specialty coffee and desserts, or people can bring their own fare.
Lish cautioned that winds often blow through the campus in the evenings, and the amphitheater can get cold.
"Last year it was 110 degrees during the day, then the weekend of the performance it was 60 degrees and frigid," she recalled.
Guests can bring camp chairs -- and jackets and blankets -- to enjoy the performance since there will be limited seating provided.
Lish said everyone should look for the energy and joy of the performers, both in the orchestra and on the stage.
"Our students are dedicated and eager to perform, and we are so grateful to have audiences willing to sit outside under a blanket and support them," she said. "It's a great musical, and the students are having a really good time with it."
Big business, big laughs
What: "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"
Who: Las Positas College Theater Department
When: 8 p.m., Friday through Sunday
Where: College outdoor amphitheater; 3000 Campus Hill Drive, Livermore
Tickets: General admission, $15; students, seniors and military, $10. Available at www.laspositascollege.edu/performingarts or at the door.