Musical mayhem with the Golden Apple's Sugar.
By Kay Kipling
It’s pretty tough to compete with a classic comedy film like Some Like It Hot, especially considering that the American Film Institute enshrined it as the funniest film ever a while back. Sugar, the 1972 musical stage version of that Billy Wilder hit starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe (now playing at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre), doesn’t quite live up to that reputation, but it’s pleasant enough entertainment.
As in the film, the action starts when out-of-work musicians Joe (Christopher Swan) and Jerry (Joey Panek) accidentally find themselves witnesses to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre at the Clark Street Garage in Chicago. The Windy City may be cold, but it’s too hot for them, as mobster Spats Palazzo (Dewayne Barrett) is determined to hunt them down and rub them out.
So the boys take it on the lam to Florida with an all-girls band—meaning that, yes, just after the Apple’s latest production of La Cage aux Folles, we once again get to see men in drag. Becoming Josephine and Daphne in the twinkling of an eye, Joe and Jerry find the situation both appalling and appealing, since it means they end up in close quarters with the band’s winsome vocalist, Sugar Kane (Samantha Barrett). Both men would like to woo her (difficult wearing women’s clothing), but that gets tougher for Jerry to do when he/she becomes the object of affection for a yachting millionaire, Osgood Fielding Jr. (Roy Johns), with a history of multiple marriages.
As presented here, Sugar is fun if not a laugh riot. Swan and Panek are a good duo, and Panek especially gets his share of audience response the longer he’s a woman (and the more confused he gets about his own reactions to Osgood’s pursuit). Samantha Barrett doesn’t overdo the breathy Monroe voice; she remains something of a cartoon version of what every man evidently desires, but we still don’t want her to get “the fuzzy end of the lollipop” once again. Johns can’t live up to our memories of the matchless Joe E. Brown in the original (who could?), but he and his ensemble of naughty old men (hey, they need love, too) are entertaining in November Song, as they kick up their heels regardless of their canes. And Dewayne Barrett and his tap-dancing gangsters are a nice diversion, too.
The songs, by Broadway legends Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, are not among their best. The opening number, When You Meet a Girl in Chicago, can’t hold a candle to some other famous Chicago-related songs, and most of the others are fairly forgettable. Doin’ It for Sugar has a certain pizzazz to it, but you’re unlikely to leave the theater humming along to anything.
Sugar continues through March 22 at the Golden Apple; call 366-5454 or go to thegoldenapple.com for tickets.