How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at Southwark Playhouse Borough – Reviews

Reviews are coming in for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying starring Tracie Bennett at Southwark Playhouse Borough in London.

The show is running at Southwark Playhouse Borough until 17 June 2023.

Georgie Rankcom’s “deliciously queered-up production” (TimeOut) stars Tony nominee and multi-Olivier Award winner Tracie Bennett (she/her – Hangmen, Follies) as J.B. Biggley, and Gabrielle Friedman (she/they) as J. Pierrepont Finch.

The cast also includes Annie Aitken (she/her) as Hedy LaRue; Taylor Bradshaw (he/him) as Mr Bert Bratt; Allie Daniel (she/her) as Rosemary Pilkington; 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; and Verity Power (she/her) as Smitty.

The show is written by Frank Loesser (Guys & Dolls) and Abe Burrows, and the creative team also includes 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), and Producer / General Manager Jodee Conrad (she/her).

Read reviews from The Times, Evening Standard, TimeOut and more.

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How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying reviews

The Evening Standard
★★

"Some lost musicals should stay lost"

"This musical, with its dodgy sexual politics, has been justly neglected"

"Time hasn’t been kind to this musical spoof about a window washer scaling the hierarchy of American business and acquiring a compliant secretary/wife along the way, although it won every award going on its Broadway premiere in 1961. It has few memorable songs, an oafish plot and an attitude to gender relations that is prehistoric. Rather than go all out and stage it as a period piece, or reframe it for modern sensibilities, director Georgie Rankcom opts for a clumsy fudge."

"The casting of Gabrielle Friedman and Tracie Bennett in the traditional male lead roles fails to illuminate or excuse the dodgy sexual politics."

"The same team unearthed Sondheim’s dreadful Anyone Can Whistle at this theatre last year. They’ve proved again that, just because you can revive a justly neglected, so-called classic, it doesn’t mean you should."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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The Times
★★★

"Sharp suits and strong songs"

"If it doesn’t measure up in terms of evergreens (I Believe in You is a lovely song, but I’ve never heard anyone whistle it) the score is sharp and witty, and the satire of Madison Avenue values stands up surprisingly well, 60-odd years on."

"Rankcom, who revived the Sondheim flop Anyone Can Whistle here last year, takes a very modern approach to casting."

"The singing is strong and spirited on Coffee Break and Company Way, while Sophia Pardon has fun with the costumes on the wryly humorous Paris Original."

Clive Davis, The Times
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TimeOut
★★★

"This satirical musical is dated as hell, but Georgie Rankom’s deliciously queered-up production makes the best of it"

"... UK audiences haven't traditionally seen the allure of its overly jaunty take on grim capitalist skulduggery. However, Georgie Rankcom's joyfully queer production has a better chance than most, upturning the original's bleak heteronormativity by casting trans performers in key roles."

"Tracie Bennett drags up with great success to play JB Biggley, the boss that Finch perpetually greases up to til he’s as slick as a deep fat fryer, while Elliot Gooch is wonderfully obnoxious as entitled office nepo baby Bud Frump."

"Essentially, this is a show for true musical theatre fans who'll delight in its knowing, rambunctuous, queer take on a retro classic..."

Alice Saville, TimeOut
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The Stage
★★★

"Zany but frustratingly incoherent"

"Zany but uneven production of Frank Loesser’s classic musical"

"How to succeed in staging a creaky old musical with dated jokes and dodgy gender roles? This is one answer: gender fluid casting, nothing taken seriously, and holding the show at arm’s length."

"What the show is crying out for is something to make it relevant, something to latch on to, and Rankcom’s production makes a creditable effort to deliver... Yet individual actors seem as if they’re performing in different productions."

"Tracie Bennett’s turn as boss JB Biggley is the most striking: seeing her imitate the swagger and bluster of a self-important corporate man throws up interesting ideas about presentation of gender, and how old roles still persist in the workplace. It’s almost bouffon in its grotesquerie; a brilliant, thought-provoking drag act."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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📷 Main photo: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Photo by Pamela Raith

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