Essentially just a serviceable summer revival of “Sugar” juiced up with some additional items from the Jule Styne catalog (notably “I Fall in Love Too Easily”), “Some Like It Hot” relies a great deal on the 77-year-old shoulders of Tony Curtis, a veteran box office draw still willing to do eight shows a week from Dallas to Atlanta. One can admire Curtis’ work ethic, and his long-delicious sense of sexual ambiguity still fires on all cylinders when it comes to this show’s famous last line. But he can’t quite transcend age and an obvious stiffness to make this show into something beyond run-of-the-mill road fare.
With his white suit pulled tight and his coif in remarkably stellar shape, Curtis acquits himself in perfectly honorable fashion — his kind of insouciance never deserts its creator. But watching a star of his caliber make an audience laugh by delivering lines like “Even naughty old men need love” is not an experience some of us especially crave.
As a result, while the performer’s name will get plenty of people through the door, a good number of Curtis’ fans are going to come away wishing they had relied instead on their celluloid memories. Watching an old matinee idol do Osgood Fielding III has its sad side.
This would not be so much the case if Timothy Gulan and Arthur Hanket popped out a little more as Jerry and Joe, the two saxophone players who end up joining the all-girl band. Both are adequate — and Gulan, a decent singer with a strong sense of comedy, is occasionally very good. But they need to take a lot more ownership of these roles — and the show.
The same could be said of Jodi Carmeli’s Sugar. The perf is essentially a dull Marilyn impersonation until we reach the 11 o’clock number, “People In My Life,” when Carneli suddenly finds her own groove and, on one Sunday afternoon in Atlanta at least, brought down the theater. Alas, it served mainly to suggest that we had been missing a great deal. Other character roles are also too stuck in archetype–Leonora Nemetz’s Sweet Sue looks especially unhappy.
Writer Peter Stone has played around a little with the book for “Sugar,” removing some of its more egregiously dated elements and freshening things up a little. But the real strength of this production — and the reason it should survive reasonably well on the road, assuming no one gets any bright ideas about New York — is that it offers decent hoofing and solid production values.
Director-choreographer Dan Siretta hasn’t stinted on the movement — and he has a good-sized company of dancers doing the honors. The gangsters’ movement-as-gunfire stuff (danced with particularly engaging attitude by William Ryall) won’t win any prizes for subtlety, but it certainly pleases the crowd. And Miss Sue’s Society Syncopaters offer enough glamour to get any pacemakers in the audience well fired up.
That said, it sometimes seems Siretta couldn’t decide if he wanted to do a revisionist revival of this now rarely revived tuner — the sultry version of “When You Meet a Man in Chicago,” which is superbly staged, certainly suggests that. But then the production leaps right back into summer stock, apparently afraid it will go too far in the other direction.
Siretta probably would have been better off taking the show in a more provocative direction. He has the actors to do it, and Curtis likely would be far happier if he did not have to parody himself as a younger man.