How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a funny, satirical musical about an ambitious young man using a simple self-help book to achieve the American Dream. We meet J. Pierrepont Finch when he is just a humble window cleaner. However, with the help of his book and his wit he quickly finds employment at the World Wide Wicket Company. Through numerous musical numbers and dance routines we witness the ambitious Finch strive for corporate success against all the odds.
As the show is a musical it would be somewhat disappointing if the musical elements weren’t up to scratch. Fortunately, this was a terrific part of the show. Just to the right of the stage a band of over 20 members provided a brilliant opening to the show with the catchy overtune. For the rest of the show they did an excellent job, underpinning many different parts of the play, from big song and dance pieces to smaller, subtler moments. For the most part they play the type of strong, upbeat tunes you might associate with this period of American history, but one song also includes snippets of classical music to good effect. On top of this, it is the cast themselves who really bring everything to life. The combination of great instrumental music, amazing singing voices and some delightful dance moves is one of the show’s greatest assets.
If I had to be critical (and I suppose that is my job) I would say that some lines were unclear at times and the beginning of the show felt rushed in places. However, this is partly just the style of the show as, being set in a 1950s all-American corporation, events, choreographed and otherwise, come flying at you thick and fast. Although whilst the beginning was initially disorientating the pace settled down and soon became far more manageable. Also one of the advantages of it being a musical, other than getting the catchy tunes stuck in your head, is that it’s never too difficult to catch up on the current state of affairs. By the second chorus it should be quite clear whether the executives are yearning for coffee or the secretaries are dealing with workplace sexism.
Although the music is great on its own, the cast’s acting is another great part of this show. Charlie Procter is great as the charismatic J. Pierrepont Finch. Together with Amelia Rathbone as Rosemary the pair form an unusual yet amusing romance. Amelia’s bittersweet solo, “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm” is an impressive performance and the song represents one of the more poignant themes of the play, the gender imbalance of 1950s America that allow the men and women of the play to inhabit such polar opposites of the same world. Another big role is that of Company President, J.B. Biggley, performed with great energy by Thomas Mullan. And really I could carry on here for a while, as the cast is a very strong collection of actors who have come together to make an utterly hilarious evening.
Behind the scenes there’s clearly been significant work to bring this show together, from a well put together set to well put together dances. The choreographer, Ammika Singhsachakul, has come up with some great routines and the cast seemed to genuinely enjoy dancing along to some great songs.
Overall, the cast can be very pleased with their efforts. This was a large production with many different roles but director, Lucy Enright, clearly wasn’t put off by this and has pulled everything together wonderfully. I had a blast watching this play and currently I’m just glad that all the songs are on Spotify so I can still relive the brilliance that is this musical.
Trevelyan College Musical Society’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is on 20th-23rd February at 7:15pm in Trevelyan College.