Students (left to right) Kenzie Scott, Cody White, Tate Mowbray and Bill Allen rehearse the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at Esquimalt High School. The musical takes place April 21, 22, 27, 28, and 29 at Esquimalt High School, and has more than 60 students involved in the production. Dawn Gibson/Victoria News

Esquimalt High students bringing big laughs to stage

School’s production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying takes place later this month.

Parker Jolliffe believes anyone who watches a performance that’s longer than an hour-and-a-half should at least have a couple of good laughs.

It is the Esquimalt High School fine arts department head’s philosophy, and is the basis for the school’s newest musical.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a musical comedy by Frank Loessner and is based on Shepherd Mead’s 1952 book with the same name. The story is about young, ambitious J. Pierrepont Finch, who, with the help of the book How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, rises from window washer to chair of the board of the World Wide Wicket Company.

It’s a performance Jolliffe came across last summer after combing through a list of potential plays for students to put on as part of their annual school production.

“It’s my personal philosophy that anyone sitting down for longer than an hour-and-a-half, they should at least laugh,” said Jolliffe, adding in the past the school has put on musicals that are less common such as Spamalot, the Addams Family, and Guys and Dolls.

“In the world we live in today, the world could use a little bit more laughter. We just tried to pick something that was written well and had lots of jokes and gives the audience an opportunity to have a good time and leave with a smile.”

Since casting began in September, more than 55 students have come together, rehearsing lines, practicing songs and choreography, building sets and designing costumes for the hour-and-45-minute-long performance.

For Grade 12 student Tate Mowbray, who plays the lead role, the musical has been his priority for the last five months. The choreography in particular has been a challenge for the 17-year-old actor, who rehearses several times a week.

“The choreography is difficult, even choreographing the numbers and fitting it to the music, and then trying to balance everything with school, homework and extracurricular activites,” said Mowbray, who started off acting in the school’s production of Spamalot and played Uncle Fester in the Addams Family.

“Musical theatre is entertaining, and making people laugh is one of the greatest things people can do.”

The musical is the school’s fifth in as many years since Jolliffe started the program in 2012.

Esquimalt High’s production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying takes place April 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29. Doors open at 7 p.m. and seating is first come first serve. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students/seniors and can be purchased by calling 250-382-9225 ext. 195 or email

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