One of my favourite films growing up was Michael J Fox’s The Secret of My Success, I would watch it dreaming of making it big at some global company, with an office overlooking Wall Street and a house in The Hamptons. Unsurprisingly, it never happened! Turns out all I needed to make my dream come true was one little book; Shepherd Mead’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Benji Sperring directs Frank Loesser’s comedy musical, based on, and named after that very same book, bringing more than a splash of gloriously gaudy colour to Wilton’s Music Hall.
Set in an America when bosses would still chase their secretary’s around their desks, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying follows window washer, J. Pierrepont Finch’s, meteoric rise at the World Wide Wicket Company. This success comes from following the precise set of instructions in his trusted book, which are helpfully read out by the ‘Book Voice’.
Sperring reunites several cast members from his very successful production of The Toxic Avenger, including Marc Pickering as Finch, Hannah Grover as Rosemary Pilkington and Lizzi Hills as Hedy La Rue. You can see why, Pickering charms his way into the audience’s affections, despite the character being written with no discernible traits, other than pure ambition. With plenty of knowing grins to the audience, highlighted by a spotlight and musical cue, we find ourselves rooting for a character that really doesn’t deserve being rooted for.
Hannah Grover shows off that incredible voice again, though there aren’t enough musical numbers for her character for her to be really able to show it off fully. Lizzi Hills proves yet again she can absolutely ace these comedy roles, both physically and verbally.
They are joined by a fantastic cast, including Daniel Graham as Bud Frump and Maisey Bawden as Miss Jones, who both give some lovely vocal performances. Choreography by Lucie Pankhurst is a kooky mix that doesn’t fail to impress, which sits well with the larger than life and offbeat spectacle of the show.
The production might not be as polished as the 2011 Broadway revival, but the slightly shuddery lift doors, spotlights that keep missing the mark and clunky office furniture, give the whole thing a certain charm.
The secret of this shows success will be that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s an incredibly funny musical with plenty of toe-tapping numbers, and it’s clear the cast are having just as much fun as the audience.
(Photography by Darren Bell)