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How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying - Roleystone Theatre

Reviewed by Chris McRae

 

It has been a long road for Roleystone Theatre with the closure of their old venue in 2018 and a campaign to save the history of the theatre and secure a new venue. 6 years later, they are home again with the newly completed venue beautifully merging nods to both the old and new. It was a privilege to be in the audience for their first-ever performance in their new home and the pride was evident in the welcome from President Bree Hartley before the show.


An excellent choice to launch into a new era at Roleystone Theatre, ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ was a sparkling and fun celebration of all things big business and the trials and tribulations that come with it. Experienced theatrical guru Peter ‘Pear’ Carr has directed a polished production that exudes energy and charm. ‘Common man’ J Pierrepont Finch works his way up the ladder of big business despite all the hurdles thrown his way by the personalities and egos of the World Wide Wicket Company. He does so with the help of a small yet very handy book entitled ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’. The book, however, does not cover what to do about the prospect of love as he encounters the beautiful and sweet secretary Rosemary Pilkington. It’s a battle of wits and will in the World Wide Wicket Company for Finch as he attempts to climb the corporate ladder (with as little effort as possible).


The length of this show is in line with the golden age musicals, clocking in at approximately two and a half hours, and it is a big ask for both the leads and ensemble in a vocally and physically demanding production. The cast is without a weak link as they tackle this with aplomb. Leading man Jason Nettle portrays Finch with copious amounts of charm in a beautifully rounded performance with some top-notch vocal and character moments. His wit and charm are complimented perfectly by Oniesha Ludlow who plays Rosemary with an excellent combination of strength and vulnerability with some dynamic vocal prowess. Matthew Walford is delightful as Bud Frump, the ‘villain’ of the piece and certainly provides some highlights as he attempts to thwart Finch at every turn. The big boss J.B Biggley is brought to life in a powerful and comedically driven performance by Callum Presbury and Chris Alvaro displays some very well-pitched comic timing as Bert Bratt, who hilariously seems to have an ever-changing role in the company. Breeanna Redhead provides a splash of colour and fire amongst the ‘suits’ as the flirty Hedy LaRue in a breezy and fun performance and Isabella Bourgault provides a wonderfully funny Smitty in a delightful transformation.


The dynamic between the excellent Executive Ensemble (who provide an absolute showstopping moment in ‘The Brotherhood of Man’) and the scintillating Secretary Ensemble (who bring the house down with numbers such as ‘Cinderella Darling’ and the brilliant ‘Pirate Dance’) is pitched perfectly with outstanding vocal and choreography moments from both.


The choreography in this show by Chloe Palliser and Cortni Cooper is an absolute treat, contrasting beautiful moments of simplicity with eye-popping ensemble numbers that are intricate and brilliantly executed. The use of the stage space in the choreography was highly creative and varied. ‘Pirate Dance’ was a crowd favourite as was ‘Brotherhood of Man’ and, as a whole, the show was an example of community theatre choreography at its best.


The show was performed on high-quality backing tracks with Musical Direction by Krispin Maesalu. The vocal delivery was articulate and the ensemble numbers provided some wonderful moments of strong harmonies. There were some particularly powerful voices in this cast and the Musical Direction was tight and clear.


This was a wonderful-looking show with a vibrant set designed by Pear Carr. It consisted of overlapping flats and doors which cleverly created different spaces such as Biggley’s Office, the well-used Elevators and the Mail Room. Moveable set pieces were well utilised to create various settings within the company. Opening night teething issues did see some of the set changes prove a little slow and drawn out with some of the flat movements proving tricky, however, there is no doubt this will tighten up as the run continues. Potentially utilising some of the transition music over the set changes could have combated this a little. But the depth of the stage is very cleverly utilised, even including the fly for the window-washer swing.


The 60’s style of this show was perfectly communicated through the various costumes with some wonderful choices from the costuming team of Sarah Boyle, Jo Padgett, Penny Ramsell and Alicia Glasson. The costuming gag in ‘A Paris Original’ was a highlight and all characters from the ensemble looked incredibly sharp and of the era. The lighting design by Stephen Carr, Chloe Palliser and Pear Carr was vibrant and inviting. A few niggling lighting issues with cues and focus points will no doubt be ironed out. A particular highlight was Finch’s cheeky ‘fourth wall wit’ moments in which the lighting beautifully added to the comedy.


‘How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ is a triumphant ‘return’ for Roleystone Theatre and provided a wonderfully light, fun and toe-tapping night of entertainment. Highly recommended for fans of the classic musicals with a splash of cheek, buffoonery and plenty of light-hearted charm.


Callum Presbury (J.B. Biggley), Jason Nettle (J Pierrepont Finch) and Chris Alvaro (Mr. Bratt). Image credit: Zyg Woltersdorf

Reviewer Note: Chris has previously worked with members of this cast and crew. Due to the potential of a perceived conflict of interest, the production team was contacted and permission was granted for this reviewer to attend on behalf of Theatre Reviews Perth. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.

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