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How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying- musical review


For most, the working aim in life is to earn as much as possible, while doing as little, and this revived musical is the perfect comedic illustration of just this: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, and directed by Georgie Rankcom, brings its satirical take on how to ruthlessly rise the ranks to the Southwark Playhouse.

When lowly window washer J. Pierrepont Finch (played wonderfully by Gabrielle Friedman) begins to follow a handbook with the titular name - voiced by Michelle Visage, no less - his journey to the top of the American business scene starts him on the road to potential success. Tactical fearlessness gives a strong facade as Finch attempts to build respect with the coworkers that matter and, a few lucky escapes aside, climb the corporate ladder, weaving between departments and job roles with stealth.

Being one of the first people met upon joining the profession, Allie Daniel's character, Rosemary Pilkington, takes immediate attraction to the newcomer, and throws the difficulty of love into the mix. Between that, a chronic caffeine addiction across the company, and some unfavourable colleagues to cause controversy, there is surprisingly enough drama to go round the office, with the tropes bringing more than just the boring work ethic stereotypes. Allie's portrayal is divine, with quick wit and an instant appeal to make for a stand out performance. Although the female secretary lover role isn't exactly the ideal portrayal for contemporary theatre, the actual romance isn't a prime focus particularly here, so it works as the depth of relationship is not required, and is merely an addition to the humour.

Tracie Bennett proves to be a star, with her utterly hilarious performance as tycoon at the top of his game, J.B. Biggley, especially in the duet with Finch 'Grand Old Ivy', and therefore being the other most notable cast member to take to the stage. Elliot Gooch takes on the part of the seemingly villainous Bud Frump, and does so in a wonderfully high camp manner, with various hair flicks and head turns to convey the sassy emotions. Milo McCarthy becomes the slightly intense Mr Gatch, with Verity Power as Smitty, the other half of the duo with Pilkington, and Danny Lane's lovely rendition of both dedicated worker, Mr Twimble as well as Wally Womper; further members of the company. Allie Aitken plays Hedy Larue - intriguingly beautiful, yet reasonably unintelligence too. With Taylor Bradshaw and Grace Kanyamibwa as Mr Bert Bratt and Miss Jones respectively, the piece seems to have effective casting all round, as the characterisation for the exaggerated personas.

Vocally, it felt as if there perhaps wasn't any exceptional and striking moments, however, the track list contains some great tunes that absolutely didn't go to waste. The first act - as well as being the more weighty of the two with content - brings plenty of fresh songs to the show. 'How To Succeed' utilises all to introduce the piece, and sets the tone for the enjoyable tracks commencing. 'Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm' is sweetly sung by Rosemary, albeit potentially a little prematurely in the storyline. 'Coffee Break', 'Company Way' and 'Brotherhood Of Man' are more highlights, amongst a flurry of worthwhile numbers.

The set contains a tall ladder that reaches towards the ceiling, with others and colourful boxes suspended too, in front of a wall of filing cabinets that also partially become a lift when need too. This is complimentary to the space, as while the props aren't overly impressive, there was no real need, as the smaller stage is always used in it's entirety to play to audiences at every angle.

In all, the 2 hour 45 production could ultimately be cut down a tad to keep a successful pace throughout, but How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying does bring a lot of laugh out loud moments. The relatability of the office environment continues to be a desirable source of entertainment, and therefore, in combination with great casting and songs too, makes for a musical that has potential to make it to the top.


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