Review by David Munro
ONCE again, The Chichester Festival has come up with a musical
to be proud of. How To Succeed In Business Without Really
Trying is bright , brassy, funny, well-presented and
a joy to behold!
The story, if such there be, describes the rise of a window cleaner
to the top echelons of a corporation through following the advice
given him by the eponymous book, vocalised with great panache
by Alistair McGowan.
Along the way, he becomes entangled with the boss’s nephew,
a glamorous golddigger and a well-meaning secretary, the latter
providing the love interest.
All this is set to a bright and cynical score by Frank
Loesser, who provides some marvellous mock-macho songs, such
as the Brotherhood of Man for the sycophantic chorus
of office workers, flashes of insight into office life, Coffee
Break, and what must be the only love song sung by the leading
character to himself – I believe In You.
The book, by Abe Burrows (plus credited authors, Jack Weinstock
and Willie Gilbert) resolutely destroys any belief in office ethics
and reveals the characters for what they are - venal, self-seeking
and unscrupulous with maximum comic effect..
As J. Pierrepoint Finch, the success seeking window cleaner,
Joe MacFaden gives a performance which manages to make self agrandisment
He sings and dances without effort and makes what is, in reality,
a repellent character, one you really want to succeed.
I hope this performance propels him into West End stardom -
he deserves it.
The secretarial love interest, Rosemary, is provided by Fiona
Dunn, who adds another notch to her belt of substantial credits
and proves yet again she is not just a pretty face, but a musical
comedy leading lady to be reckoned with.
Her sidekick, Smitty, the archetypal American wisecracking broad,
is in the safe hands of Sophie Louise Dann, a lady I have long
admired and who has at last been given a part worthy of her talents
- and very good she is in it too.
As the scheming, conniving and finagling
nephew, Bud Frump, David Langham gives a marvellous performance
of cartoonesque villainy.
He has the loose-limbed body of a Ray Bolger of whom, and I hope
he will not object to this, he reminds me.
He has the gangling charm and ability to portray vacuity with
charm that the great American star had and I hope that this ability
provokes some far–seeing management to promote him in one
or more of the Bolger parts such as Where’s Charley
or By Jupiter. He would be worth the investment I feel.
As Hedy La Rue, the proverbial blonde gold digger, Annette Mclauglin
manages to bring life to what is really an unrewarding stereotype;
as does Beverly Klein to the role of the faithful and sympathetic
Last, and by no means least, there is James Bolam as J B Biggley,
the outwardly tough but inwardly gentle Boss of the corporation.
Mr Bolam makes him one of the most likeable characters on the
stage. His sense of timing is impeccable and just when you feel
he has overplayed a scene, he draws back and reveals a moment
of comedic bliss.
He and Joe McFadden are a perfect comedy team and one feels that
had this been a new show their characters would have been spun
off into a TV situation comedy.
Their scenes together crackle with expertise and comedic pleasure
and to see them spark off each other is worth the price of admission
The rest of the cast give admirable support to the principals
and Martin Duncan’s direction drives the show along at a
The minimal set, by Francis O’Connor, with its tubular
steel design and futuristic, almost Metropolis atmosphere, sets
off the action to a T.
If you think that this review is too effusive, it is simply that
I wanted to share with you my delight in what is a bright, efficient
and an extremely worthwhile show; book tickets now !
How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying
Book by Abe Biurrows, Jack Weinstock & Willie Gilbert
Lyrics and Music by Frank Loesser.
Director - Martin Duncan
Designer - Francis O’Connor
Choreographer – Stephen Mears
Lighting – Chris Ellis
Sound – Matt McKenzie
Musical Director - Richard Balcombe
CAST: Alaistair McGowan; Joe McFadden; Gary Milner; Grant Anthony;
Melvin Whitfield; Nolan Frederick; Philip Sutton; Trevor Jones;
Nina French; Anna Lowe; Alexis Owen-Hoibbs; Ruth Anderson; Claire
Parrish; Leanne Rogers; Fiona Dunn; Sophie-Louise Dann; James
Bolam; David Langham; Beverley Klein; Teddy Kempner; Annette McLuughlin;
Chichester Festival Theatre, Oaklands Park, Chichester, West Sussex,
Box Office: 01243 781312.