The secret of my success is a 1987 film starring Michael J. Fox that is perhaps more fondly remembered than critics and audiences of the time judged.
But the new musical version of The secret of my success set to make its regional premiere at Theater Under the Stars is an almost totally different animal, updated, revamped and to rave reviews when it played in Chicago.
Sally Wilfert, who plays Vera Prescott on the show (and was last seen in the 2010 TUTS production of Mama Mia!), says she’s incredibly honored to be on the ground floor of a brand new musical.
“I love doing new work. It’s an opportunity for me to create and develop a role. And [TUTS Artistic Director] Dan [Knechtges] is such an amazing director and creator and I love collaborating with him,” she says. “I did the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in which he was nominated for a Tony. I did the national tour. I also did Mama Mia! here in 2018.”
Ben Fankhauser stars as Brantley Foster, the young careerist looking for a way to climb the corporate ladder. Ashley Blanchett plays Christy Lockhart and Brian Mathis returns to TUTS as Piers Johnson.
Houston favorite Susan Koozin (a scene stealer in Lend me a soprano at the Alley) plays Joann Foster. Melrose Johnson who made her TUTS debut in Don’t misbehave joins the cast as Rose. Students from TUTS Humphreys School are on stage. Knechtges leads.
When asked to describe her character, Wilfert said: “Vera is a very successful businesswoman. She’s a best-selling author, a relationship expert. She’s also the chair of the board of Prescott. Industries and Prescott is a multinational financial company that was started by her grandfather, he took it from that little cannery and it grew into this huge business, so she’s part of that family legacy, and married to a man who runs the business now.
“The irony is that behind the curtain and the facade of perfection is something hugely flawed and their relationship isn’t working out and that part of her life is really in shambles.
“Then lead Brantley, he struggles with what success means. I think everyone on the show struggles with what success means. Is success family? Is success a job And can it be both?
When asked about the extent of the film’s updates, Wilfert said, “It’s been deeply overhauled simply because it was created in 1987 with themes that are just inappropriate in this world in it’s about women.But the theme is when you struggle with what success means in your life and feel proud of your roots and you can take them with you on the road to success.I think everyone can be seen somewhere on the scene in terms of what success means.
“It’s also a super funny musical. It’s ridiculously entertaining. The tunes on the show are so good.”
The focus is on what the real meaning of success is and how to achieve a balance between corporate work and personal life, she says.
Wilfert first became involved in musical theater in high school which she attended in a small town outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. She grew up playing the piano and taking dance lessons. In high school, she discovered that she could also sing. She went to Eastern Kentucky University for acting, then did some theater work in Cincinnati where she got her acting equity card, then headed to New York.
Musicals continue to appeal to audiences, she says, “because there’s so much going on in life that needs to be written about. It’s an expression, it’s something that audiences can hang a moment of disbelief and take a trip or a ride that might reflect something in their lives.”
Performances are scheduled October 25 through November 6 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For more information, call 713-558-8801 or visit tuts.com. $40 to $135.