Review: Sugar, New Earswick Musical Society, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York
Thursday 15th April 2010
THE billboard poster outside Joseph Rowntree Theatre announces Sugar and Some Like It Hot in equally big letters, and why not, because the 1959 film that inspired the song-and-dance spin-off is the strongest selling point.
Truth be told, the 1972 musical is not so hot by comparison with that film, the one with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag and Marilyn Monroe all a’wiggle. However, such is the abiding affection for Billy Wilder’s movie that it is nigh on impossible not to enjoy re-visiting its familiar storyline, re-booted with songs in the Twenties’ fashion by Jule Styne and lyricist Bob Merrill.
Peter Stone’s book sticks as closely as a man-marker to the original story, even ending on the same unforgettable line as the movie. No one will feel a sense of familiarity more than Jo Pears, who first played no-nonsense band leader Sweet Sue 22 years ago; and here she is, immaculate and brisk on baton duty once more, leading her band Sweet Sue And Her Society Syncopators, with husband Don Pears wielding his baton simultaneously as the show’s musical director.
Plenty of experience goes into this production, not only Jo and Don but also director and choreographer Ann McCreadie and scenery designer Robert Readman; Alan Rome as the harassed band manager, Bienstock; and Carolyn Richardson, so often the New Earswick leading lady, as Sugar Kane, the sweet-voiced Monroe role that finds Carolyn acquitting herself well in a comic role while singing with her customary panache.
The real fun belongs to Stephen Padfield and Alex Papachristou, who transform themselves from out-of-work musicians Joe and Jerry into the Syncopators’ new additions, Josephine and Daphne, when they must flee Chicago after witnessing the St Valentine’s Day Massacre. Padfield arguably enjoys himself even more in the guise of an oil magnate, his bold front to seduce Sugar.
Papachristou, meanwhile, has previous form for this cross-dressing lark, having dazzled as outspoken mum Edna Turnblad, a gloriously frank vamp in drag in Hairspray last November.
Daphne, by comparison, does not require him to turn the acting volume up to 11, but asks him be less at home in heels and wigs until growing in confidence, leading to the amusing interplay with his beguiled suitor, the oft-married millionaire Sir Osgood Fielding (Ian Small).
Papachristou is not alone in making his New Earswick debut. Another of the York scene’s most talented young lights, Oliver Tattersfield, cuts a dash as crime boss Spats Palazzo, who tap-dances through his every moment on stage, his rat-a-tat-tat matched by the gunfire that finishes him off, his dancing feet dancing to the very last.
Look out for Martin Rowley’s cameo a as dunce-headed hoodlum, another joy of a show where the performances are rather more memorable than the songs.
By Charles Hutchinson
New Earswick Musical Society presents Sugar, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, April 13 to 17 Wednesday 7th April 2010
WILL New Earswick Musical Society actor Steve Padfield wear his cross-dressing costume from Sugar when he runs the London Marathon on April 25?
“Many of my fellow cast members are trying to convince me to do it for the run,” says Steve, who will be raising money for the Anthony Nolan Trust. “It’s a very worthwhile cause, but I can’t run 26 feet in high heels, let alone 26 miles, even if they doubled the sponsorship!”
Steve will play “the Tony Curtis role” in Sugar, a musical based on the film Some Like It Hot, which will require him to disguise himself as a woman to escape a tap-dancing gangster.
In recent weeks, he has had to combine training stints for the marathon with rehearsals for Sugar, switching from pounding out the miles in running shoes to spending several hours each week walking and dancing in high-heel shoes.
“It’s a novel way to work on my calf muscles but my feet are killing me afterwards,” says 42-year-old Steve. “I don’t know how women can wear high heels all day.”
Sugar will be staged at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, from next Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm, only one week before Steve’s marathon challenge. “Rehearsals and training are getting more intense – and I need to shave my legs for the show, but I’m hoping this helps me become more streamlined for the long run ahead!” he says.
Steve combines his performing role with his duties as publicity manager for New Earswick Musical Society, and he has certainly done his bit to drum up publicity for Sugar. “Although the numbers will be considerably fewer than those attending the marathon – expected to be over 36,000 runners this year – it would be great if we could encourage more people to come along to the show. I can guarantee a great evening’s entertainment,” he says.
Sugar tells the story of two unemployed musicians, bass player Jerry (Alex Papachristou) and saxophone player Joe (Steve’s role), who witness the St Valentines Day massacre in Chicago. In order to escape gangster Spatz Palazzo (Ollie Tattersfield) and his henchmen, they dress as women and join Sweet Sue (Jo Pears) and her Society Syncopaters, an all-female band about to leave town for an engagement in Florida.
Complications arise when Joe, now known as Josephine, falls for beautiful band singer Sugar Kane (Carol Richardson), who has a slight drinking problem that tends to interfere with her ability to choose a romantic partner wisely. More than anything, Sugar wants to marry a millionaire, prompting Joe to disguise himself as the man of her dreams. Meanwhile, wealthy and elderly Osgood Fielding Jr. (Ian Small) is pursuing Daphne, unaware she really is Jerry in drag.
“This is a fantastic show – with upbeat music, great songs, and plenty of comedy throughout – and it should appeal to all ages, but unfortunately it’s a lesser-known musical and therefore we’re struggling to sell tickets, so please, please book now,” says Steve.
By Charles Hutchinson