Pros: How to Succeed features a strong cast giving enthusiastic performances and catchy musical numbers played by a brilliant band.
Cons: There are some teething problems with lighting cues and staging, and the seating is uncomfortable.
This was my second visit to Wilton’s Music Hall in Whitechapel and I’m confident I’ll be back sooner rather than later. The venue, a Victorian ‘Grand Music Hall’, has been lovingly restored and is a joy to look around. Anyone interested in the history of London theatre and music hall should visit at least once.
How to Succeed charts the meteoric rise of J. Pierrepont Finch as he follows the advice set out in the titular self help book and has a choppy, almost sitcom-like structure. While I was familiar with How to Succeed thanks to the 2011 Broadway revival and due to the music having been written by Frank Loesser of Guys and Dolls fame, I had never previously seen the show and was unsure how much I would like it.
I really enjoyed the musical itself and personally prefer it to the slightly toothless Guys and Dolls. While some of the songs may seem a little dated, as someone who’s worked in the City I felt it still resonated, and I can think of a few law firm partners who would benefit from listening to A Secretary is Not a Toy. There is an impressive number of catchy songs when compared to some musicals and it’s almost impossible to keep from tapping your toe during the big number Brotherhood of Man.
For a small venue, the staging is ambitious and the onstage band top notch. The highlight of the production is the truly impressive cast. The whole company are excellent singers and dancers and, more importantly, all looked like they were having an amazing time, which always makes a show more enjoyable to watch. Special mention has to go to the excellent Marc Pickering and Hannah Grover as Finch and Rosemary, Finch’s love interest, and to Geri Allen, who gives a hilarious turn as Rosemary’s interfering best friend Smitty.
The only detractions I can think of were a few minor issues with staging and lighting. One ‘elevator’ door repeatedly stuck, the movement of furniture around the stage was a little graceless at times and the spotlights were haphazard (but were played off excellently by Pickering). I feel like this is nitpicking, however, when I had such an excellent time, especially when I have seen multi million pound West End productions with bigger staging snags.
How to Succeed is a brilliant, high energy production with a strong cast who are clearly having an excellent time. You can’t ask for more. I would recommend it to anyone (and plan to!).
Authors: Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert
Music and Lyrics: Frank Loesser
Director: Benji Sperring
Producers: Nicholas Thompson Productions and Tarquin Productions in association with the King’s Head Theatre
Box Office: 020 7702 2789
Booking Link: https://www.wiltons.org.uk/whatson/288-how-to-succeed-in-business-without-really-trying/99948
Booking Until: 22 April 2017