Review: You Have To Earn It (Alumnae Theatre)

You Have to Earn It will have you “shaking in your seats” with laughter, at Toronto’s Alumnae Theatre


There are times when a comedy is too cheesy. The characters can be too loud, the plot too predictable, and the jokes too forced. That kind of play makes your stomach twist with embarrassment after every pause for a laugh. Lucky for me, Alumnae Theatre’s You Have To Earn It is the right kind of cheesy. The show is light-hearted and silly, but my cynical heart wasn’t overwhelmed by the positivity.

You Have To Earn It is a throwback to the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 40s. The homage to the old comedy style means there are hijinks, wacky misunderstandings, and some old fashioned sexism. The show stars Betty Parker who is the best costumer service receptionist her company has ever had, but even with all her hard work she can never seem to get promoted. Betty, played by Amy Swift, is tired of seeing coworkers like Joan, played by Jill Kooymans, get the job she deserves. Betty and her sassy friend Dorothy, Kathleen Jackson Allamby, gang up to see if their boss Mr. Brown, Paul Stafford, is cherry-picking employees because of their looks or if the women have really earned it.

I felt like the cast genuinely had fun during their performance. The show seemed like a good place to let loose and hope for the best. During the set change, they didn’t do the usual practice of turning the lights off and secretly shuffling away the furniture in the dark. Music sparked and cast members emerged from backstage. They danced and joked as they changed the scenery from an office into a high-class restaurant. It was a pleasant surprise.

Amy Swift was adorable as the sweet Betty Parker and Tim Nussey was adorably dorky as Eddie. My guest and I whole-heartedly agree that the stand-out performance was by Kathleen Jackson Allamby, who had us shaking in our seats. Her drunken shouting caused by a few too many martinis was my favourite moment of the show. I don’t know if that brilliance is due to Allamby’s acting, Jennifer Radford’s directing, or Maria Popoff and Ramona Baillie’s writing, but I know that they should all be applauded.

If you want to watch something cheesy and fun, see You Have To Earn It during Alumnae Theatre’s Fireworks Festival. If old school comedies are not your cup of tea, you could always go to the other Fireworks Festival show Burying Toni, which explores the feelings of Emma Jung during her marriage to the famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung. If you can’t choose between a show to make you giggle or a show to make you ponder, you could always have both.


  • You Have To Earn It runs until November 29th at Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street).
  • Performances run at 8pm on November 20, 22, 26, 28 and 29. There is a matinee at 2pm on Sunday the 23rd.
  • The Fireworks Festival runs until November 30th. The shows are You Have To Earn It and Burying Toni.
  • Ticket prices are $15 and Sunday matinees are PWYC (Pay What You Can). A Festival Pass for both shows is $25. “Playwrights Speak” and “Roundtable Sessions” are free after matinee performances.
  • Passes can be purchased online and tickets can be purchased at the door (cash only). Please call the box office at (416) 364-4170 with any questions.

Photo of Amy Swift by Dahlia Katz