BWW Review: SUGAR Is A Real Crowd Pleaser

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Thursday 5th May 2016

Sugar is the musical adapted from the film, Some Like it Hot, that starred Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon. Saxophonist, Joe, and bassist, Jerry, witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, a gangland slaying carried out by 'Spats' Palazzo, but they are seen and pursued. To avoid the mobsters, they dress as women and join an all girl jazz band, The Society Syncopaters, becoming Josephine and Daphne. The band, which is going on tour, is led by Sweet Sue, a strict disciplinarian without a sense of humour, and the singer is the gorgeous blonde, Sugar Kane.

As if things were not already awkward enough, Joe falls for Sugar and, worse still, aging millionaire, Osgood Fielding, falls for Daphne, and Jerry takes a liking to the gifts that Osgood bestows on him, so continues to play his role. Their luck eventually runs out and Spats Palazzo catches up with them, with the two finally revealing their true identities.

The Metropolitan Musical Theatre Company have placed their first production for the year in the safe hands of the very experienced director, Leonie Osborn, with regular Met choreographer, Carmel Vistoli, and musical director, Tammy Papps, who is joining the company for the first time in that role, having worked with several other companies in the past, as well as playing violin in Met Orchestras for a good few years. That is a lot of knowledge and experience being applied to this production.

We first meet Greg Hart, as Joe, and Daniel Fleming, as Jerry, looking for work and approaching Bienstock, played by Peter Keller, the band's manager. They have heard that he is looking for a saxophonist and a bassist, but were unaware it is for an all girl band. Keller is ideal as the constantly beleaguered manager-cum-general dogsbody, trying hard to keep up with the demands of Sweet Sue, who is anything but sweet. Carolyn Adams presents Sue as a humourless martinet, harrying the girls in the band and dispensing orders to Bienstock.

Hart and Fleming are a great double act as the womanising musicians, trapped by their own escape method, surrounded by young women and unable to chase after them. Their attempts to keep their true identities secret give rise to plenty of laughs, as do their independent activities. Having discovered that Sugar is seeking a millionaire husband, Joe sets up a second secret identity to woo her, behind Jerry's back, and Hart gives a good impersonation of the voice of Cary Grant in that guise. Jerry also has an eye for Sugar, but has been beaten to the punch. Still dressed as Daphne, he is waylaid in his pursuit of the couple by Osgood, a genuine millionaire, and has to continue playing a woman.

Maintaining their disguises becomes progressively trickier, and then Spats Palazzo and his two henchmen appear, comically tap dancing their way around in search of Joe and Jerry. The hilarity eventually reaches the point where Joe tells Sugar that he is Josephine, as well as being her supposedly millionaire suitor. Jerry follows suit, admitting the truth to Osgood. Their multiple characterisations and excellent singing voices ensured that the audience had plenty to applaud.

Kate Bonney is Sugar Kane, a girl with an addiction to saxophone players, especially after a couple of drinks, getting hurt every time. Bonney has a sensational singing voice and creates her own unique interpretation of the character, without resorting to copying Marilyn Monroe. She gives us a Sugar who is a touch naïve and easily fooled by men, but refrains from going all the way to the caricature of the stereotypical "dumb blonde". This is a nice change, and a mature approach to the role.

Barry Hill plays Osgood Fielding, the suave millionaire with a string of divorces behind him and an eye open for a new wife but, obviously, not a very sharp eye if he has fallen for Jerry dressed as Daphne. Hill is another of Adelaide's theatrical mainstays and his hilarious pursuit of Daphne hits a peak with their dance routine, which has to be seen to be believed and, of course, his final line that closes the show.

There are good performances, too, in the minor roles, and the chorus is lively and well-rehearsed. There were a few tentative moments on stage near the start, no doubt opening night nerves, but that vanished quickly enough. There were occasional dodgy notes from the brass section and, hopefully, this will be sorted out quickly.

Taken as a whole this was a very well-received production with laughter throughout and loads of applause at the final curtain. The bright jazz score keeps toes tapping, adding to the fun of the performance and ensuring a good night out.

On a sad note, the performance was dedicated to James Dodds, who passed away recently and whose funeral had been that afternoon. He was a long-time member of the Met and had given so much of his time to theatre in Adelaide. He will be greatly missed.

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From This Author Barry Lenny