The thought of amateur dramatics used to fill me with dread; too often felling like a car crash unfolding before my very eyes. Happily as Sedos present a brilliant version of How to succeed in business without really trying at the Bridewell Theatre those days appear long gone. The Stock Exchange Dramatic and Operatic Society (Sedos) cast their net far and wide when recruiting actors and creatives, this production alone features a civil servant, journalist, teacher and lawyer among many others. The fact they all have day jobs makes the quality of this production all the more remarkable.
How To Succeed originally premiered on Broadway in 1961, and was soon followed by a West End run. A musical from the pen of Frank Loesser (creator of Guys and Dolls) is something of a guarantee and this production doesn’t disappoint. It tells the story of J. Pierrepoint Finch (James Leggat), a window cleaner dreaming of a better life. Taking inspiration from a book entitled ‘How to succeed in business without really trying’ Finch wanders into the World Wide Wicket Company, collaring President J.B. Biggley (David Robson) for a job, eventually finding himself with a job in the mailroom. He soon meets secretary Rosemary Pilkington (Miranda Evans) who is quickly smitten with him. Whilst in the mailroom Finch crosses swords with Biggley’s nephew Bud Frump (Matt Young), who naturally thinks the company owes him a living. Unlike Frump Mr Twimble (Sam Barnes) has proudly served the company for 25 years and is promoted to head of shipping. But who will fill his shoes as head of the mailroom? The narrative carefully traces Finch’s climb up the greasy corporate pole, but where will it all end for him and Rosemary?
In many ways the story is very dated, portraying caricatures from a bygone age; the bright but shallow operator who knows what buttons to press; the chump who gets promoted if he hangs round for long enough; and girls recruited as eye candy for the bosses. It feels like the template for Madmen with its barely disguised sexism. However, it still works wonderfully well as a satirical study of office politics in the 1960s.
A magnificent cast make nonsense of their amateur status performing with charm and humour. A basic but still adequate set is the only sign of Sedos’ amdram status. Even so, I’ve never seen such rapid set changes with props moved into place so quickly you wouldn’t have noticed them. This is a production that could easily be dropped into the West End without any noticeable difference; a thoroughly professional production that ticked all the right boxes.
Music & Lyrics: Frank Loesser
Book: Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert
Author: Shepherd Mead
Director: Peter Shimmin
Musical Director: Michael Cannon
Choreographer: Sam Miller
Producer: Rebecca Chisholm for SEDOS
Booking Link: https://sedos.co.uk/secure/boxoffice/production.php
Booking Until: 25 May 2019