THEATRE REVIEW: How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying starring Tracie Bennett at Southwark Playhouse (Borough)

By Aline Mahrud

WHEN?: Saturday 20 May, runs until 17 June 2023.

WORTH A LOOK?: *** RUNTIME: 140 minutes (including a 20 minute interval)

Southwark Playhouse is currently running theatres in 2 different south London locations and tonight we mistakenly pitch up at the new Elephant rather than the old Borough site which is our bad but gives a little insight into the rather haphazard nature of this venue.

  • Read on for reasons including how director Georgie Rankcom stepped into the cast seamlessly at this performance

1 of the reasons we were intrigued to see this production of a musical of which we are not familiar was the appearance of Allie Daniel (Legally Blonde, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre) as secretary Rosemary but she’s not on and instead director Georgie Rankcom steps into her heels effortlessly.

How To Succeed In Business is a 1961 musical with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser – who also wrote Guys and Dolls currently revived brilliantly at the Bridge Theatre and is the story of window cleaner J. Pierrepont Finch and his rise within firm the World Wide Wicket Company.

Both Matthew Broderick and Daniel Radcliffe have starred as Finch in revivals on Broadway and here the role has swapped gender with Gabrielle Friedman appearing wide-eyed and naive but armed with the titular book voiced by RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’s Michelle Visage which is propelling her rise to the top.

Tracie Bennett (Follies, National Theatre) also has a gender-swapped role and plays company boss J.B. Biggley. Elliot Gooch shines as dastardly relative Bud Frump making the most of nepotism to compete with Finch to climb the greasy pole to success.

Characters familiar to anyone who has worked in an office environment litter the book and Danny Lane as the Company Man is particularly memorable.

It’s a shame that this production didn’t put as much thought into updating the rather clunky and old-fashioned nature of the setting as it did the gender fluidity of the cast. This revival has the feel of something trying to be modern yet rooted in a world more than half a century ago.

This is also no competition for the stellar Guys And Dolls with only stand-out song Brotherhood Of Man reminding what a showstopper the gospel Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat is.

How To Succeed In Business then is well cast and is an interesting diversion but is far from climbing the ladder to be the must-see musical of the moment in London.

  • Main picture via Facebook courtesy Southwark Playhouse Tickets
  • Have you seen this or any other Southwark Playhouse shows? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
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