If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Photo by Tim Matheson

Based on Shepherd Mead’s satirical book of the same name, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying is one of two musicals presented by Theatre Under the Stars this summer in Vancouver’s stunning Stanley Park.

The corporate satire set in the popular period of ‘Mad Men’ may preach that it’s easy to succeed in business without really trying, but it would seem that to do so in theatre requires just a touch more finesse. With Drew Facey’s set design strongly reminiscent of the show’s most recent Broadway revival starring Daniel Radcliff, and several members of the cast struggling both physically and vocally, it was not quite the polished performance I was expecting after having seen it’s partnering production of ‘Legally Blonde the Musical’ last week. Make no mistake; it was a greatly entertaining show with many outstanding moments, just a little rough around the edges.

When you consider the fact that the majority of the cast are amateur performers however, you can appreciate the great work that TUTS do in providing opportunities in the arts year after year for Canada’s aspiring performers.

Making a melodramatic mockery of 1960s business culture, standout numbers including “Coffee Break”, “The Company Way”, “Paris Original”, “Been A Long Day” and the sensational second act highlight “The Brotherhood of Man”, will be humming around your head for days, as will the wonderfully shrill voice of Hedy La Rue. La Rue is the boss’ bit on the side, played superbly by Cailin Stadnyk and is arguably the show’s most hilarious character – greatly reminiscent of Audrey in Menken and Ashman’s Little Shop of Horrors. In fact, How To Succeed… presents a whole host of fantastic character acting, from Smitty the secretary (Caitlin Clugston) to the World Wide Wickets President, J.B. Biggley (Joel Wirkkunen) and his weasel of a nephew Bud Frump (Victor Hunter). Though sometimes struggling vocally, Victor Hunter provided laugh after laugh with his comic physicality and over exaggerated dastardliness that I feel was pitched perfectly for a show such as this.

Andrew Cownden and Georgia Swinton were endearing as Finch and Rosemary, though maybe the influence of my feminist mother is coming out in me, as watching poor Rosemary reveal her aspirations in life are merely to marry a man that barely notices her whilst she is “Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm” made me more upset than amused, and I didn’t find myself willing her to chase those dreams. Cownden wowed the audience with his tap dancing in Act Two however, as did the powerful voice of Miss Jones (Jennifer Suratos), both of which appeared to emerge from nowhere, unfortunately only to disappear again almost instantly.

The experience and beauty of seeing a show quite literally amongst the wildlife of Stanley Park is something I cannot recommend enough, and what better way to spend a warm summers evening than supporting a fun filled show from a great company such as TUTS. Let’s hope they’re around for many years to come.