How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying ★★★ Southwark Playhouse | May 12 - Jun 17, 2023

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying came to Broadway in 1961, and over seventy years later, it still works. Abe Burrows' lines still draw laughs and Frank Loesser's music is as catchy as ever. The satire of life in the corporate world and of gender stereotypes is still apt, and the characters are all still endearingly recognisable. In this production the main difference from the original is the gender flipping of many of the actors. This could be distracting, but in this case it worked well enough, and Tracie Bennett is a fine J.B. Biggley and Gabrielle Friedman is suitably charming as the ambitious J. Pierrepont Finch. However, the question arises of what does this gender reversal of the actors really add to the substance of the play? It might have been more pointed and amusing to have the characters change gender with the executives being played as females and the secretarial staff played as males. Nevertheless, we particularly enjoyed Elliot Gooch's over-the-top performance as Bud Frump. He is truly the nephew that defines nepotism. Unfortunately, the failure to consider sight lines must have been frustrating for some audience members who probably couldn't see his performance at certain points. Directing on a thrust stage is not an easy task, but in this case there is also an issue of actors simply having their backs towards portions of the audience for too long. The production's set also has some definite drawbacks. It is minimalist to the point of being ineffective. For the song "I Believe in You" we really do need a mirror and more indications that we are in an executive washroom. And, for "Been A Long Day," the lift should be a central feature. However, despite such shortcomings, this a musical that is full of wit and joy. At the end of the show, it's hard not to join in when the cast sing "Company Way" or belt out the showstopper "Brotherhood of Man."

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Pamela Raith.

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