Sweet Smell of Success

Wilma’s Rating [rating=4]
When you first walk into the Arcola Theatre, you wonder what you have let yourself in for. It is a building site (having just reopened after having extensive work done to it), with cables still hanging from the ceiling! The auditorium itself is like an old gutted pub. Hollow apart from the seats which have been added in for the performance. Saying this, I’ve always said its amazing what you can find at the back of a pub.

Sweet Smell of Success is based on the 1957 film, telling the true story of Walter Winchell (the New York Daily Mirror gossip columnist) who was criticized for the way he obtained his print worthy news.

JJ (played by David Bamber) is reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in The Witches of Eastwick (slimy yet powerfully endearing). JJ takes Sydney (Adrian der Gregorian), a struggling reporter, under his wing and treats him like a protégée. In return, JJ asks that he follow his sister and report back to him on her every move.

Susan (JJ’s sister, played by Caroline Keiff) is hiding her relationship with piano player Dallas (Stuart Matthew Price) because she knows her brother won’t approve. She is suffocated by her over protective older brother and will go to any length to stop him from finding out about the two of them.

Together with Sydney, Susan plots a plan to get JJ to recognise Dallas and his talents for himself, so that he sees that he is a good guy and will then approve when she announces her love for him.

The ensemble cleverly pop up all in a line at moments throughout the piece and you can see the stars shining. Brenan Davies and Claire Doyle sparkle and stand out from the others. It’s something to do with the way they manage to tell a story through their eyes.

It’s all very Chicago. Jazz music, smoke, black costumes and razzle dazzle! The songs have a familiar sound to them. You hear notes that you know you’ve heard before in another show but before you can place its origin, it’s gone. This gives the music in the show an immediate hook as you feel already related to it.

JJ has 60 million readers that love him, but Susan isn’t one of them. JJ needs to somehow get rid of her good for nothing boyfriend without her knowing it is his doing.

The Sweet Smell of Success is a very clever musical that doesn’t turn out they way you might expect it to and shows that success doesn’t always smell as sweet as you think it will.

A brilliant show, well worthy of being given a chance to live up to its full potential on a west end stage.