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How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

  • Theatre, Musicals
  • 2 out of 5 stars
  1. © Darren Bell
    © Darren Bell

    Matthew Whitby, Nuwan Hugh Perera, Geri Allen, Daniel Graham, Maisey Bawden, Lizzii Hills, Richard Emerson

  2. © Darren Bell
    © Darren Bell

    Andrew C Wadsworth, Richard Emerson, Marc Pickering, Nuwan Hugh Perera, Daniel Graham, Matthew Whitby

  3. © Darren Bell
    © Darren Bell

    Matthew Whitby, Nuwan Hugh Perera, Geri Allen, Maisey Bawden, Daniel Graham, Lizzii Hills, Richard Emerson

  4. © Darren Bell
    © Darren Bell

    Nuwan Hugh Perera, Matthew Whitby, Daniel Graham, Marc Pickering, Richard Emerson, Andrew C Wadsworth, Maisey Bawden

  5. © Darren Bell
    © Darren Bell

    Lizzii Hills,Hannah Grover,Geri Allen,Matthew Whitby,Marc Pickering,Daniel Graham,Andrew C Wadsworth,Nuwan Hugh Perera, Richard Em

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Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

This dated Broadway musical hits Wilton's

This ’60s musical composed by Frank Loesser has not aged as gracefully as his other big hit ‘Guys and Dolls’. Centring on a window cleaner who blags his way to the top of a large corporation with the help of the titular self-help manual, it’s set in a ‘Mad Men’-esque world of busty secretaries and golf weekends.

One could give it the benefit of the doubt and label it satire, but the show – which won a Pulitzer in 1962 – has undoubtedly dated awkwardly. A song in which the protagonist’s love interest (a receptionist, of course) sings of her eagerness to ‘keep his dinner warm as he goes onward and upward’ is tough to take even with a generous pinch of salt. Even the fact the boss’s clandestine hobby is knitting now seems horribly genderised.

It doesn’t help that Benji Sperring’s revival plays such a straight bat. This is a piece crying out to be taken by the scruff of the neck, but Sperring merely adjusts its tie. It feels like it’s posing as a West End production when it should be embracing the Wilton’s surroundings and offering something altogether more playful.

There are some commendable performances, notably from Marc Pickering in the central role of J Pierrepont Finch; his roguish demeanour is reminiscent of a young Alan Cumming. Hannah Grover wrestles admirably with the corseted receptionist Rosemary, while Matthew Whitby camps it up gloriously as the personnel manager Mr Bratt. And Daniel Graham shows operatic flair as Finch’s nemesis, the boss’s presciently-named nephew Bud Frump.

But their efforts are largely in vain. If the songs were catchier and funnier (a number about the horrors of women wearing the same dress just doesn’t cut it), you could perhaps forgive this as a charming slice of a bygone age. But as it stands it’s easy to see why it hasn’t received a full London production for 50 years. I wouldn’t mourn if it takes another 50 to return.

Written by
Theo Bosanquet

Details

Address:
Price:
£17.50-£29.50, under 16s/NUS/OAP £15-£27
Opening hours:
Mon-Sat 7.30pm, mats Wed & Sat 2.30pm
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