People love to laugh at men in drag.
Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond knew this in 1959 when they wrote the classic movie “Some Like It Hot,” starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe.
Jule Styne, Bob Merrill and Peter Stone knew it in 1972 when they adapted “Some Like It Hot” into the Broadway musical “Sugar.”
The Bellevue Little Theatre, which opened its third production of “Sugar” on Friday, also knows this, as its first two productions were quite popular.
Sorry to say, this one might not be as easy a sell. At least, not yet.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. A Thursday preview audience laughed often watching Adam Hogston and Timothy Barr as a couple of jobless musicians who don dresses and join an all-girl band headed to Miami. They’re in disguise to escape mobsters after witnessing the Saturday Night Massacre in Chicago.
Complications mount when Joe, masquerading as Josephine, falls for the band’s singer, Sugar. Since she wants to marry a millionaire, Joe adapts a second disguise as the man of her dreams.
At the same time, Jerry, masquerading as Daphne, becomes the object of affection for an elderly millionaire, Sir Osgood Fielding. Jerry starts to like the attention and expensive gifts.
The jig is up when the mobsters hit Miami and figure out who Josephine and Daphne really are.
The show’s greatest asset is Angela Fick as Sugar. With a gorgeous face and figure, plus a pleasing singing voice, she was always more than watchable. Curtis Leach also is a kick as Sir Osgood, a relentless paramour. Jason DeLong does some fancy stepping as a mob boss who tap-dances whenever he talks.
Hogston, as Joe, is a strong baritone and a solid character actor. Barr, as Jerry, is a hilarious fish out of water in a dress but less accomplished as a vocalist or a hoofer.
Thursday night — which, to be fair, was a dress rehearsal — the show looked like it needed a few days more to work out the kinks.
Lead characters muffed lines and lyrics. In big chorus numbers, some dancers figured out what to do next, a little too late, by looking at the person next to them.
Slow scene and costume changes (despite minimal scenery) drained energy and momentum as the band vamped while the audience waited in the dark. Essential comedic timing was hit and miss. So was pacing.
Technical glitches detracted. A palm tree with all the fronds on one side, backless dresses with unsightly inserts or underlayers, a bed that came apart, scenery caught on curtains — all drew attention from the unfolding action.
This may be a show that comes into its own on the second weekend.
Still, crowd response was generous and supportive, as relatives and friends of the cast and crew got into the spirit. Community theater isn’t always about polish so much as having fun, pulling together and putting on a show. That’s the sugar here.
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