Recently I had the pleasure of seeing Ballarat Clarendon College’ latest production: How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.
A satire of big business, which follows the rise of J. Pierrepont Finch, who uses a little handbook of directions to climb the corporate ladder from lowly window washer to high-powered executive, tackling such familiar but potent dangers as the aggressively compliant “company man,” the office party, backstabbing co-workers, caffeine addiction and, of course, true love.
Director Michael Harrop, a newcomer to Ballarat, has made his mark with gusto on this show.
The direction is slick and confident, the show moves with great pace and is always interesting with not a dull moment and great attention to detail, especially between the lead actors.
Namely the lead actor Jack Richardson in the role of Finch, and his love interest Rosemary, played by Molly Fry.
Jack is the first person we see on the stage, and from that moment on, commands the complete attention of the audience for the duration. His performance is nothing short of astounding for one so young. His vocal ability, physicality and acting prowess smack of a budding triple-threat performer akin to the likes of a young Hugh Jackman.
There are even moments in his performance that reminded me of the brilliance of stars such as Donald o’ Connor and Dick Van Dyke in their prime. Jack even throws in some moments of brilliant comic timing that are usually beyond the understanding of someone so young.
After storming onto the stage and leaving audiences gobsmacked in Phantom of the Opera earlier this year, Molly Fry as Rosemary takes on a demure and sweet role in this show, but nonetheless takes full advantage of the opportunities given, to show her incredible vocal abilities. Proving that she is just as comfortable singing musical theatre as she is operatically. Her acting is lovely, believable and the scenes between herself and jack are gorgeous and sometimes hilarious.
These two are backed by an excellent supporting cast, namely Ellie Dowling as Smitty, who plays an excellent jaded secretary that has seen it all, Oriel Forsyth as the sultry and seductive Hedy, Marion Peters as Mrs Jones who when she lets loose in the number “Brotherhood of man” unleashes an utterly brilliant singing voice that left me quite breathless, Aidan Conway as Bud, who is very funny as he tries to undermine Finch’s attempts to climb the corporate ladder, and Bryn Dickson as Biggley, who delivers a solid and commanding performance as the big boss.
There are 45 students in the cast, all of whom are used to excellent effect in this production, the ensemble provide a solid and well-rehearsed support for the leads, and when they are all on stage it provides the perfect amount of color, movement and excitement.
The dance numbers are fantastic, and congratulations must go to Stacey Clarke, who has found the exact formula for simple but very effective choreography, so as to allow students of all dance backgrounds and abilities to be able to participate, and the more complex choreographed numbers are executed with precision and confidence by the more accomplished dancers of the company.
The choral direction of this show by Steven Belcher is joyous to hear. All of the singing is delivered with great annunciation, excellent harmonies and everyone blends perfectly.
He is to be congratulated on his time spent with them and his attention to detail and what is a huge sound when the whole cast join together to sing.
The musical direction by Sarah Barlow is slick, tight, and there is never a slow moment. There are 13 students in the orchestra, all of whom obviously have extraordinary ability.
The simple set is perfect so as to not pull the audience’s focus away from the performers and the lighting is used to create just the right moods.
The costumes by Louise Emery are exact in their 1950’s style and all performers are made that bit more believable by the fact that are wearing what they should be.
The show as a whole is bright, fun, funny and every component part comes together to create a satisfying and wonderful experience.
Review by: Sophie Livitsanis.