Thursday, 30 September 2010

Sugar, The Production Company, Sept 30, 2010 ***

Book by Peter Stone, music by Julie Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, based on the screenplay, Some Like It Hot by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond
The Production Company
State Theatre, Arts Centre, Sept 30 until Oct 3, 2010
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Some people certainly like it hot, and Marilyn Monroe was steaming in Billy Wilder’s 1959 comedy, Some Like It Hot, starring Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Sugar is the 1972 musical based on Wilder’s film, and the sassy Christie Whelan, as Sugar Cane, channels Marilyn.

Director, Adam Cook, casts three of Australia’s most successful music theatre performers in his slick, funny production. Whelan has a fine, bright musical theatre voice and is delectable as ditzy Sugar, the ukulele-playing, blonde bombshell who’s looking for love – with a millionaire – but always falls for the penniless saxophone player.

Matt Hetherington (Joe/Josephine) and Mitchell Butel (Jerry/ Daphne) are a perfect comic-musical duo in the cross-dressing roles made famous by Curtis and Lemmon. They enter girlishly, wearing blousy women’s suits and feathered hats, singing The Beauty That Drives Men Mad.  Despite Butel’s skinny, chicken legs and Hetherington’s brawny shoulders, they pose, prance, disguising themselves with squeaky voices, bad wigs, sequined gowns and bathing suits. They are caught shaving in the ladies’ room, bellowing in gruff male voices or sneaking peeks at Sugar’s peachy bottom.

The plot (Peter Stone) echoes the movie. Joe and Jerry, unemployed musicians, after witnessing the Chicago St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, flee the tap-dancing mob boss, Spats Palazzo (Peter Lowrey). The pair escape by dressing as women to join an all-girl band, Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopators.

The tunes (Julie Styne) and lyrics (Bob Merrill) are not ground-breaking but the incorporation of original movie dialogue, characters and comedy makes the show fun. Doin’ It For Sugar is a cheerful duet by Joe and Jerry. November Song features the inimitable Dennis Olsen as a naughty, old millionaire Sir Osgood Fielding III accompanied by a chorus of wheelchair-dancing, ancient millionaires.

Olsen sings Beautiful Through And Through, a charming love duet, with Daphne (Butel) who is the love of his life and his future, seventh wife. Melissa Langton belts out a fine version of When You Meet A Man In Chicago as the domineering Sweet Sue.

Christopher Horsey’s eclectic choreography showcases the versatile chorus. One highlight is a tap routine by machine-gun toting killers. George Ellis conducts a tight band with rich string and brass sections.  Sugar is a taut production with exceptional performances from a talented cast.

By Kate Herbert

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