Review: ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’

By Annie Lucas

Trevelyan College’s performance of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is polished and energetic. When entering into the main hall, the first thing that stands out is the original and hand-made set design which cleverly gives the performers a backstage area whilst also adding to the consistently smooth scene transitions between scenes. It is also this clever design that allows for the main character, J. Pierrepont Finch, as played by Charlie Proctor, to appear on stage without ever having seemingly walked on stage when the lights come up.

Proctor’s charisma is infectious

Proctor’s charisma is infectious as he portrays an ambitious window cleaner who, after sourcing a book detailing the formula that leads to business success, rises up the ranks of a high-earning company with charisma, but mostly luck. The charm of Proctor’s performance is also emulated by many other actors as this cast works together well in order to provide a thoroughly entertaining evening of comedy.

Another great performance is given by Thomas Mullen, playing the character of Mr Biggley. The confidence with which he delivers his lines and his impeccable sense of comedic timing is impressive and the dynamic interaction between his character and Proctor’s in the song ‘Grand Ole Ivy’ is extremely enjoyable. Between them, Proctor and Mullan manage to keep the musical moving forward at times when it could seem quite long.

it is easy to see that the cast have worked together well

This play is not all about business – the role of the love interest, Rosemary Pilkington, is superbly played by Amelia Rathbone as she has a wonderful voice which is best displayed in her solo, ‘Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm’. Whilst the main actors are spectacular, a wonderful aspect of this musical is that it showcases every single actor at some point. Therefore, it is easy to see that the cast have worked together well and that there has been a cohesive effort made by everyone to make this musical such a success.

Another important role played in this musical is that of the band which is excellently organised by co-musical directors, Amber Skoropinski and Rosie Stephens. Without the conductor, the musical numbers would not be as slick and polished as necessary. There were times when the singers and band were in slightly different places, but this was usually the result of a mistake made by the singer and the conductor manages to maintain an outstanding level of synchronicity.

A concerted effort is also made to manage the volume of the band as the singers could be heard perfectly over the music which, given the size of the band, cannot be an easy task. The perfect balance of the singers’ microphones is also a tribute to the technical team whose management of everything from the scene transitions to the lighting is without error and adds to the effortless running of this musical.

the conductor manages to maintain an outstanding level of synchronicity

The director, Lucy Enright, has previous experience with directing and it shows as there is nothing that has not been accounted for. All the actors are evidently very self-assured in their abilities. All of the on-stage movements feel natural rather than planned and dialogue between characters has not been sacrificed for the singing; the perfect balance is somehow struck between all disciplines in this musical.

Overall, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is an extremely enjoyable musical that is very funny, refined and well-acted and which does not feel strained with effort (much like the title). The actors work well together and there are some stand out numbers such as ‘Brotherhood of Man’ which has been choreographed superbly by Ammika Singhsachakul as the dancing elevates the performances so that they become very special. If you want an amusing evening, this excellent performance by TCMS of a Tony and Pulitzer winning musical is not one to miss.

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