Review: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Annex Theatre

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80%
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Impressive

SUSU Showstoppers deliver another stellar show, with lead Robin Harris being a particular standout.

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SUSU Showstoppers are back, this time with a performance of Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. J. Pierrepont Finch (Robin Harris), a lowly window washer, climbs the ranks of a high powered business with very little effort, just as the title would suggest! Never lacking in an optimistic outlook and a hard work ethic, he faces various obstacles along the way – big boss J.B. Biggley’s (Jamie Martin) power complex, Biggley’s over-privileged nephew Bud Frump (James Cook), and biggest of all, the distraction of a love interest, pretty secretary Rosemary (Charlie Taylor).

The best thing about How to Succeed is that it’s a musical that knows not to take itself too seriously – the characters are cliches, there is very little real adversity faced, and the real issues, such as Biggley’s affair with a secretary, are positively ignored for the fun of the plot. It’s a pleasant, if slightly throw-away, comedy romp for the audience. Showstoppers fit this vibe perfectly, provoking the biggest laughs from an audience I’ve ever heard in a theatre, and just looking like they are having a ‘jolly good time’.

This is not to take away from Showstoppers’ hard work, and I’m sure it hasn’t been all laughs to arrive at this point! There is such an unexpected vibe of real professionalism, parallel to that of a proper production. From the cleverly designed set, made to look as if you are peering into a sketch in Pierrepont’s prophetic book, right through to the stunning band, even that which slips into the background is perfected.

The acting is also extremely impressive. Robin Harris stars as Finch, and nobody has rocked a bow tie quite like that since Matt Smith became the Eleventh Doctor. Jokes aside, Harris has a real feel that he is going somewhere; his voice is good, his comedy timing is perfect, and that twinkle in his eye is just infectious for the audience. Though the entire cast shines, another notable mention must go to Jamie Martin as Biggley, who had me completely convinced that he was a middle aged, power crazed, knitting obsessed businessman the whole time. Despite having a reasonably small role, Emma Bryant also has a definite feeling of ‘going places’, with her performance as Miss Jones being impeccable at all times.

The second half of the show didn’t feel quite as polished as the first, but this is probably the fault of the original text, rather than Showstoppers’ adaptation. I just struggled to follow the idea of a televised treasure hunt (a bit like Biggley). However, the closing numbers were excellently performed, and it was great to see a happy ending, especially for Finch and Rosemary.

Considering it’s my first time seeing a Showstoppers’ production, I was blown away by their professionalism. I’m certainly keen to see more of what they have to offer, and I would encourage you all to do the same!

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is at the Annex Theatre from 20th April to 23rd April. 

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Editor of The Edge. Previously Culture Editor (2016-17). Sporadic writer for the Wessex Scene, DJ on Surge, known photobomber of SUSUtv's videos. Bad habits include Netflix, not doing my work and drinking too much tea.

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