AISLE SAY/ Florida

SUGAR

Book by Peter Stone; Music by Jule Styne; Lyrics by Bob Merrill
Based on the film “Some Like It Hot”
by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond
After a story by Robert Thoeren
Directed by Robert Ennis Turoff
Starring Christopher Swan and Joey Panek
with Samantha Barrett
Golden Apple Dinner Theatre
25 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, 941-366-5454 or 800-652-0920
January 20 to March 22, 2009
www.thegoldenapple.com 

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

There are two ways to view Sugar, 300th production of Golden Apple, the longest continually running Equity dinner theatre in America. I don’t advocate what seems to be the most common: That’s to compare the musical with the film it’s based on.  Sure, doing so one may find the “live” version not too different, good yet not as good as the film. Well, it’s pretty hard to pull off the equal of a classic, and one of the all-time funniest to boot, either in another film version or in a stage adaptation. Even when the equivalent of cinematic style--using a variety of quickly changing scenes--has “in person” color added, impersonation comes to mind.
 
A better way to enjoy the musical is to put the film out of mind, to join the fun with a fresh point of view, looking for both intrinsic qualities and different theatrical means of presenting, not representing them. At the Apple, Sugar affords a lot more fun to an audience whenever it’s itself: when Samantha Barrett doesn’t concentrate on playing sexy, vacuous Marilyn Monroe but instead reveals the cute, more vulnerable Sugar Kane. Or when Christopher Swan, so appealing in voice and manner in his own right, isn’t adopting a Cary Grant accent (like Tony Curtis did) as Joe masquerading as a rich yacht owner. Or when Roy Johns makes the truly rich yacht owner Osgood act all cuddly-funny with wide eyes rather than imitate Joe E. Brown with wide mouth. As for Joey Panek, his bass fiddler Jerry is so much coarser at first and vulnerable later than Jack Lemmon that he’s wonderfully beyond comparison.
 
The basic plot’s the same.  In Chicago, out-of-work musicians Joe (Swan) and Jerry (Panek) have to escape perpetrators of the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre they witnessed. So they disguise themselves as Josephine and Daphne to join an all-girl band for a Miami gig. As early as on the train, they fall for the band’s gorgeous singer Sugar.  Of course, there’s much typical cross-dressing humor, but though they carry it off with aplomb, the guys are never vulgar. Still, hesitant about continuing their deception, they convince that they’re “Doin’ It for Sugar” (the score’s most catchy tune, done again later after Barrett/Sugar’s cute “Hey, Why Not” on Miami Beach). Swan “learns” to change Joe’s speaking voice like clockwork and navigate in high heels.  Panek’s Daphne seems to grow into having girlish fun, not least when he’s defending his “womanly” virtue.
They fool not only their admirer Sugar but hard-boiled bandleader Sweet Sue (bold Kyle Ennis Turoff) and her put-upon manager Bienstock (J. Paul Wargo, fittingly frazzled).
 
Both Chicago goons and their leader Spats Palazzo (Dewayne Barrettt, proving his prowess as choreographer and dancer) initiate and continue the chase via wonderful tapping (for machine gunning) and strobe-highlighted action. They’re so precise to watch that one almost wishes they’d pursue the guys further. It’s adequate compensation, though, to have had time for Swan’s song about “Magic Nights” and Panek realizing “It’s Always Love” that wins out over deception.
 
With a lively ensemble of thirteen, Dee Richards’ showy period costumes and Michael Newton-Brown’s nicely identifying scenic panels, settings shift seamlessly. Musical Director John Visser on piano also conducts his three fellow musicians in spirited manner. Director Robert Ennis Turoff has used all to make a sweet musical that deserves to be savored without comparing it to another treat.
 
Stage Manager: Alyssa Goudy. Technical Director: Trez Cole. Production Coordinator: Andrea Kinal. Time: 2 hours. 

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