How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, 4 Stars

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Southark Playhouse
12 May – 17 June 2023

“A comic gem that took Broadway by storm in 1961, winning both the Tony Award for Best Musical and a Pulitzer Prize. It boasts an exhilarating score by Frank Loesser – one of America’s great composer/lyricists, also responsible for ‘Guys & Dolls’ (currently a massive hit at the Bridge Theatre) – including ‘I Believe in You’, ‘Brotherhood of Man’ and ‘The Company Way’.A satire of big business and all it holds sacred, it follows the rise of J. Pierrepont Finch, who uses a little handbook called How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (voiced in the Southwark production by Michelle Visage of ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race’ fame) to climb the corporate ladder from lowly window washer to high-powered executive, tackling such familiar but potent dangers as the aggressively compliant “company man”, the office party, backstabbing co-workers, caffeine addiction and, of course, true love.”

Review by Richard Lambert, 4 Stars

Having worked on the 1995 Broadway production of How to succeed in business without really trying during my two years living in Manhattan, it was quite a culture shift to see it performed in the relatively small space of the Southwark Playhouse with a cast of only principals. Adding the gender-swap of the actors was quite bewildering. The show is already terrific without mucking about with it.

The story is an insight into the American Corporate world where misogyny, sexism, nepotism, infidelity all play out as comedy with poignancy. The gender of each character is vital for each plot twist.

Tracie Bennett, arguably one of our finest actors with two Oliviers, a Tony and four further Olivier nominations, plays the lead as Mr J B Biggley, the president of the corporation. Dressed as a power lesbian while referring to her as a “he” and “Mr” feels more cartoon than comedy. Tracie is absolutely terrific in the role and a study for actors!

Allie Daniel playing Rosemary has amazing comedy timing and expressions. She is a joy to watch. Elliot Gooch playing Bud Frump is brilliantly charismatic. In fact, the cast are all truly magnificent.

With a large ladder dominating the stage representing the corporate ladder it’s internal LED strips was a genius touch. The lighting was superb! Adding layer upon layer to the show and a cast that hit their marks means they’re always lit well. The Southwark is challenging for lighting with a thrust stage but the rig wasn’t splashing all over the audience. Great job!

The dance numbers are to die for! Superb choreography and a cast that are sharp and in unison!

Wonderful orchestrations with a big sound coming from a band of only 6 musicians. The sound design and operation also worked well with a balance that meant we could hear everyone even in a relatively small space with a live band.

With such incredible songs such as COFFEE BREAK, A SECRETARY IS NOT A TOY, GRAND OLD IVY, I BELIEVE IN YOU and BROTHERHOOD OF MAN this is a great musical and not to be missed. The gender swap in my opinion adds a cartoon filter over the production losing the poignancy of the book. This production is well worth seeing for the musicality, production values and cast performances.

Photo credit: Pamela Raith

Cast:Annie Aitken (she/her) as Hedy LaRue. Taylor Bradshaw (he/him) as Mr Bert Bratt.Allie Daniel (she/her) as Rosemary Pilkington.Gabrielle Friedman (she/they) as J. Pierrepont Finch.Elliot Gooch (he/him) as Bud Frump.Grace Kanyamibwa (she/her) as Miss Jones.Danny Lane (he/him) as Mr Twimble/Mr Wally Womper.Milo McCarthy (they/them) as Mr Milton Gatch.Verity Power (she/her) as Smitty.Tracie Bennett (she/her) as J.B. Biggley

Creative Team:Director Georgie Rankcom (they/them)Choreographer Alexzandra Sarmiento (she/her)Musical Director Natalie Pound (she/her)Set and Costume Designer Sophia Pardon (she/her) Lighting Designer Lucía Sánchez Roldán (she/her) Sound Designer Joshua Robins  (he/him)Orchestrator Stuart Morley (he/him)Stage Manager Waverley Moran (she/they) Production Manager Misha Mah (they/them),Casting Director Peter Noden (he/him)Producer / General Manager Jodee Conrad (she/her).

Big Con Productions and The Grey Area presentFrank Loesser and Abe Burrows’

The show is 90 mins 1st half, 20 min interval, 50 mins 2nd half

Music & Lyrics by Frank LoesserBook by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock & Willie GilbertBased on the novel by Shepherd MeadSouthwark Playhouse (Borough)77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD12 May – 17 June 20237:30pm Mon-Sat3pm Tues & SatTickets: Click here£16 Previews, £28 Concessions, £35 StandardSocial Media:Twitter/Instagram/ TikTok@SucceedLDNOriginally presented by Cy Feuer and Ernest H. Martin
in association with Frank ProductionsPresented by arrangement with Music Theatre International