Arts & Entertainment

Opening Night of Millburn Middle School's ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ is a Hit!

Opening night performance of Millburn Middle School's "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." Credits: Jonathan Sym
PJ Powar as J. Pierrepont Finch Credits: Jonathan Sym
Aashni Sawhney plays Rosemary Pilkington Credits: Jonathan Sym
Credits: Jonathan Sym
Charles Baker as Mr. Twimble and PJ Powar Credits: Jonathan Sym
Credits: Jonathan Sym
Spencer Quartin as Bud Frump Credits: Jonathan Sym
Credits: Jonathan Sym
Mikayla Barber, Caitlyn Sleeman and Lauren Updyke Credits: Jonathan Sym
PJ Powar and Jarod Freidman Credits: Jonathan Sym
Credits: Jonathan Sym
Aashni Sawhney and Lauren Updyke Credits: Jonathan Sym
Credits: Jonathan Sym
Credits: Jonathan Sym
Halle Lipton as Hedy LaRue Credits: Jonathan Sym
Credits: Jonathan Sym
Devon Harrison as Bratt Credits: Jonathan Sym
Credits: Jonathan Sym
Credits: Jonathan Sym
Credits: Jonathan Sym
Credits: Jonathan Sym
David Huneryager, Musical Director and Conductor, with orchestra Credits: Jonathan Sym
Stage Hands:  Malika Yuldasheva, Amelia Leonard, Jennifer Cotto, Lauren Dordevic, Elinora Eschenbach, Tina Liu. Credits: Jonathan Sym
Lauren and Caroline Updyke Credits: Jonathan Sym
Bonni and Halle Lipton Credits: Jonathan Sym
PJ and Maria Powar Credits: Jonathan Sym
Aashni Sawhney Credits: Jonathan Sym

MILLBURN, NJ – Who needs Broadway when the talent in Millburn runs so deep.  Last night’s opening performance of the original 1961 Broadway musical by students of Millburn Middle School was an absolute success.  Could these young amateur actors from a small town in New Jersey really be that good?  The answer is a resounding YES!  I would pit this cast against any professional company and challenge them to provide a performance as brilliant as we were treated to last night.  I’m sure that everyone who saw the performance would also agree.

PJ Powar, who plays the lead role (J. Pierrepont Finch), is very convincing as the window-washing protagonist who’s trying climb the corporate ladder at the World Wide Wicket Corporation.  From the opening act, his wide range of acting and singing will make you root for his success.  Powar is a gifted and versatile actor.

Aashni Sawhney has one of the most impressive voices I’ve heard on stage.  She plays Rosemary Pilkington and her singing is flawless.  The pipes on this young talent is truly amazing.  I’d see the show again just to hear her sing.

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Jarod Friedman was born for the role of J.B. Biggley, the president of the World Wide Wicket Corporation.  His “Old Ivy” accent and mannerisms is spot on, he played that character to a tee.  He even smelled of old money, perfectly cast for this role and plays it like a seasoned thespian.

Lauren Updyke and Halle Lipton had the added challenge of performing their roles with accents, as did Charles Baker, which they did so convincingly.  Updyke plays the nasally Smitty, Lipton the role of the ditzy Hedy LaRue and Baker the dual roles of Mr. Twimble and Womper.  They didn’t miss a beat.

Spencer Quartin plays Bud Frump, the mailroom clerk and nephew of the company’s president.  He’s hilarious and Quartin is perfect in this role.

Caitlyn Sleeman (Miss Krumholtz), a spitting image of actor Anna Camp, danced wonderfully.  Rachel Gesner played Miss Jones perfectly (who looks like actor Dalila Bela) and Devon Harrison was the perfect ‘yes man’ as Bratt.

Michael Sorkin, Ryan Lam, Salil Shah, Jaeden Yates, Greg Licciardi, Jacob Gordon, Louise Adillon, Surabhi Misra, Halie Jasinover, Julia Gesner, Mikayla Barber, Alex Dessart, Riya Gupta and Ellie Dessart also gave outstanding performances as lead cast members.

As brilliant as the actors are, the success of the musical could not have happened without the stunning stage direction and choreography of Mark Opell and the masterful musical direction of David Huneryager.  The live orchestra, yes live, is such a treat.  Not often does a school production incorporate this caliber of music.   Adrienne Blossey (woodwinds), Brian Fleming (brasses), Jacob Miller-Hoesly (bass) and David Huneryager (conductor) are all music teachers at our middle school.  Not performing at the musical but a critical player is Rebekah Giammarino, who is the rehearsal accompanist.  The orchestra is rounded out with Carl Phillips (keyboards) and Anthony DeAugustine (Percussion).

Contributing to the ‘can’t miss’ musical is the fantastic chorus, production staff, stage crew, stagehands and design crew. 

Only two more opportunities to catch this show, Saturday at and a Sunday matinee at 1 p.m.

Tickets will be sold at the front door and online at

Note:  Click Image for 4X viewing.

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