Review - How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying - Southwark Playhouse, London

How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying - Southwark Playhouse, London

In 1962 Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying took Broadway by storm winning no less than 7 Tony awards. How to Succeed is set in a different time when men were in charge and needed to be reminded that a Secretary is not a toy!  And yet it speaks remarkably well into our present age where being successful is more important than doing anything of meaning!  With all this in mind the satire continues to work.

The Grey Area Theatre Company and Big Con Productions 2023 reimagining of this show has the added twist of the gender fluidity of many of the cast. Women play men, men play women and peoples pronouns are respected and celebrated.

The cast is led by Gabrielle Friedman who plays Mr J. Pierrepont Finch, a window cleaner with ambition. He’s looking to climb the ladder of success.  Aided by his self help book (voiced by Michelle Visage) and an “accidental” encounter with company president Mr J. B. Biggley (played by the hugely talented and totally transformed Tracie Bennett) he is soon moving up the rungs.  

Strong that both theses performances are, the star for me is Allie Daniel playing Rosemary Pilkington the secretary with brains and heart.  She may be deluded by love but she will do anything to get her man.   She hits every mark with sensitivity and comic timing to boot. Her singing is pitch perfect, when she is on stage your eyes are drawn to her - and she never disappoints.

All this is aided by the staging.  Once again the Southwark Playhouse “large space” has been transformed, this time to a horseshoe shape which means we are all close to the action.  The set, though minimal, works well with some nice touches using the filing cabinet backdrop.

For me, the sound mix was not quite as it might have been. More keyboard and reverb on some of the voices would have given a more solid musical bed. This said, How to Succeed is really an American musical comedy with a few songs and a few cameo numbers thrown in. I guess that’s what made a Tony award winning musical 60 years ago.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying - is playing until June 17th 2023.  If you are looking for a fun night at the theatre with a few good songs and a great cast then get yourself to the Southwark Playhouse before the end of the run. This one really should succeed!

This show was reviewed on the 16th May 2023. Tickets are available here: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying - Southwark Playhouse

**** stars

Paul Wood

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Photo credit: Pamela Raith