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  • Writer's pictureSarah

Review of 'How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying' at Southwark Playhouse

First staged on Broadway in 1961, this musical has had two revivals, one starring Matthew Broderick and a further one starring Daniel Radcliffe. Written as a satire about the world of big corporations and the slippery ladders that needed to be climbed to reach the top, it features a fair amount of caffeine addiction, backstabbing, sabotage, time-serving men, the dangers of too much alcohol at the office party, female friendship, and finally true love.

Person wearing yellow boiler suit standing on a ladder with a book in one hand
Where it begins - Gabrielle Friedman as J. Pierrepont Finch. Photo credit Pamela Raith

This could easily have felt outdated, a product of its time and no more. But this production manages to humorously comment on the past, not endorse it. The show has embraced modern casting techniques with two female actors playing leading roles. Gabrielle Friedman plays J. Pierrepont Finch, a window cleaner with ambition and a handy 'How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying' handbook (voiced by Michelle Visage), which he duly follows. Tracie Bennett plays J.B.Bigley, the President of The World Wide Wicket Company, to hilarious effect and clearly relishes the role. Most of the rest of the cast are cast according to their gender.

Person in suit sitting at a desk, with second person wearing golfing clothes standing behind them
Finch impresses J.B. Bigley at the weekend. Photo credit Pamela Raith

This a world where men are men, have mistresses that they employ (the handbook even helps with how to assess and deal with this situation), and where secretaries dream of marrying ambitious young executives on their way to the top. Rosemary (played and sung beautifully by Allie Daniel) is one of those secretaries, she's attracted to the gumption displayed by Finch and sets her sights upon him. Her expectations are low though, she knows that life with an executive means spending many an evening 'keeping his dinner warm'.

Woman and man standing on opposite sides, up a rung, of  a stepladder
Romance blossoms between Rosemary and Finch. Photo credit Pamela Raith

I don't want to give away the whole story line, but I can say that you'll laugh out loud repeatedly, recognise the awful office party, and rejoice at the downfall of the office politicians, and have your heart a little warmed by the blossoming romance.

The comedic timing of this cast is very good indeed, and the balance between the orchestra and the cast spot on. The songs were witty and well sung; who can resist a song called, 'A Secretary is not a Toy'?

We love small theatre venues like the Southwark Playhouse, and urge you to support them. You don't need to go to the West End for a musical when there are venues like this putting on fun musicals such as How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying for a fraction of the price of big name shows. Our only criticism was about the heat, with summer coming this could be an issue for some people.

Cast of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying:

Annie Aitken (she/her) as Hedy LaRue. Taylor Bradshaw (he/him) as Mr Bert Bratt. Allie Daniel (she/her) as Rosemary Pilkington. Gabrielle Friedman (she/they) as J. Pierrepont Finch. 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. Verity Power (she/her) as Smitty. Tracie Bennett (she/her) as J.B. Biggley

Creative Team:

Director Georgie Rankcom (they/them) 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) Producer / General Manager Jodee Conrad (she/her).

Music & Lyrics:

Frank Loesser

Book by:

Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock & Willie Gilbert

Based on the novel by Shepherd Mead


Southwark Playhouse (Borough)

77-85 Newington Causeway,




now until - 17 June 2023

7:30pm Mon-Sat

3pm Tues & Sat


£28 Concessions

£35 Standard


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