Musical Theatre Guild presents rarely staged or forgotten musicals in a semi-staged, script-in-hand format. For their 22nd season they have chosen four film to stage musical adaptations starting with Sugar which played Glendale’s Alex Theatre on September 24. Sugar opened on Broadway in 1972, was nominated for Best Musical and played a total of 505 performances. I was lucky to see the 1974 production of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera which featured original star Robert Morse (who was in attendance in Glendale). In 1998 I saw a revised version produced by Fullerton Civic Light Opera that took back the original film’s title Some Like It Hot. The third time for me still retained the charm. Playwright Peter Stone wrote the book, mostly using the film’s dialogue by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond which is priceless. The movie, which Wilder directed and that starred Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe, is often listed as the top Hollywood comedy film. Stone changed a few plot items, especially streamlining the ending, to make the action work on stage. Jule Style provided the lively music and Bob Merrill the lyrics for the dozen plus songs. There are no big hit songs in the score but they serve the story well.
Two penniless and out of work musicians, Joe (Zachary Ford) and Jerry (Matthew Patrick Davis), witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago and pursued by tommy gun carrying gangsters flee town for the safer, warmer climate of Miami. The only gig that they could land to save their lives was with Sweet Sue (Kelly Lester) and her Society Syncopators, an all girl band fronted by sexy ukulele playing singer Sugar Kane (Melissa Fahn). So on go the wigs, bras, high heels and hilarity ensues. When the newly rechristened sax and bass players, Josephine and Daphne, appear they really are “The Beauty That Drives Men Mad.” The talented leggy duo brought down the house with their comic shenanigans. Also adding to the hilarity is the band of decrepit millionaires the Syncopators encounter in Florida. Chief among them is the much married and divorced Sir Osgood Fielding (James Gleason) who is instantly smitten by the tall, willowy Daphne. The sight of this couple courting, Daphne is about two heads taller than Osgood, is a sight gag that keeps giving thanks to the inspired playing of Davis and Gleason. Ford and Fahn do a fine job as the other couple discovering love on the beach and on the yacht.
Director Kirsten Chandler keeps the action moving smoothly and swiftly and has created some fun pictures with her simple staging. Choreographer Wendy Rosoff added to the fun by giving mob boss Spats (Bryan Chesters) and his gang their constant tap dancing steps. Musical director Jan Roper led her five piece all girl band from the piano giving the score some zing.
Next up for MTG on November 12 will be Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, a musical by David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane based on the Pedro Almodovar film. www.musicaltheatreguild.com