With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961) is less well known than his iconic Guys and Dolls (1950), and yet, in many ways, it’s a far more accomplished musical. Based on Shepherd Mead’s 1952 book of the same name, the razor-sharp Broadway adaptation by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert satirises the corporate business world of the early sixties.
Director Georgie Rankcom helms this production, following their low-key hit with Anyone Can Whistle (1964) at the Southwark Playhouse last year. Unfortunately, this production is a fairly unimaginative and unenergised affair, which not even very tight choreography (Alexzandra Sarmiento) can save.
Thank goodness for Tracie Bennett, who steals every scene she is in. If she isn’t belting out a brassy vocal, she’s delivering her lines with a gruff relish, a twinkle in the eye, and the tongue planted firmly in the cheek. Without her, you might fear the show would seriously flounder.
Allie Daniel brings some charm to Rosemary, and gets the odd laugh. But the music feels beyond her – and her co-lead, Gabrielle Friedman – making the whole evening more than a little tired. It needs a more accomplished sing, and slicker direction – and when the music and book lack in a musical, there’s not much left to enjoy.
Playing at the Southwark Playhouse 12 May – 17 June 2023.