The 1959 film Some Like It Hot with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe is accounted one of the greatest comedies of the 20th century. So it was inevitable somebody would make a musical of it.
The little-known show is “Sugar,” which ran for 505 performances on Broadway in 1972 and garnered four Tony nominations. Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace is currently giving it a vibrant revival with lots of local color.
As in the movie, the musical’s farcical plot follows two down-and-out Chicago musicians, Joe and Jerry, who inconveniently witness a gangland slaying and need to get out of sight. The only gig they can find is with an all-girls orchestra, Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopaters, so to escape the pursuing mobsters, the two men disguise themselves as women and join the band on its tour to Florida. En route, both men become smitten with the vocalist, Sugar Kane, and Joe resorts to playing a millionaire to get close to her.
The musical has its own complete score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill and uses none of the music from the original film (not even that Monroe classic, “I Want to Be Loved by You”). The jazzy melodies are pleasant, if not memorable, with “When You Meet a Man in Chicago” by Jennifer Knox as Sugar and “Penniless Bums” and “The Beauty That Drives Men Mad” by Rod Thomas and Alan Schmuckler as Joe and Jerry the liveliest numbers.
Thomas and Schmuckler make this show worth seeing. They’re hilarious, both in and out of drag, but especially when the farce brings the disguised women up against real women.
Knox nicely evokes Monroe’s blonde bombshell without aping her. She’s exquisite in an Act II solo dance number. Joe D. Lauck gives a dapper performance as Osgood Fielding Jr., the real millionaire who becomes enamored of Jerry’s female alter ego, to some sidesplitting effects, and Tammy Mader has presence as the irascible bandleader Sue. A fine cast and ensemble backs up the principals.
Director Jim Corti’s staging, as if the cast were on a Hollywood film set, takes some getting used to. It also, sadly, leaves us without big dance numbers. Yet while this isn’t the deepest musical, and the original is funnier, it’s still a very good time.