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How to Succeed in Business really does succeed at Chichester!

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 charming.

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 boss’s secretary.

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 alone.

The rest of the cast give admirable support to the principals and Martin Duncan’s direction drives the show along at a spanking pace.

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; Teddy Kempner.
Chichester Festival Theatre, Oaklands Park, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 6AP.
Box Office: 01243 781312.

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