Sugar plays it sweet and sassy

by Beacon Staff • April 16, 2008

Playing April 18 and 19 at the Boston University Dance Theater (off the St. Paul stop on Buick Street), Sugar is a full-scale musical involving gender confusion, catchy songs, dirty old millionaires and mobsters who complete a murder with a tap dance.,Sugar, the cross-dressing stage adaptation of the classic film Some Like It Hot, is the Musical Theatre Society's newest production.

Playing April 18 and 19 at the Boston University Dance Theater (off the St. Paul stop on Buick Street), Sugar is a full-scale musical involving gender confusion, catchy songs, dirty old millionaires and mobsters who complete a murder with a tap dance.

"It's silly and crazy and one of those traditional, wacky musical theatre shows," says director McCaela Donovan, a graduate student earning her masters in theatre education. "I think it's going to be pretty hysterical."

The play begins in Chicago, where Jerry (Anthony Jackson) and Joe (Chris DeVita), two out-of-work musicians, accidentally witness the murders of three men by mob leader Spats (Dru Serkes) and his henchman (Chris Nicolosi).

Pursued by the two killers, they hide out by joining an all-girls group, "Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopaters," heading to Florida to perform. To blend in and escape, Joe takes on the identity of saxophone-blowing "Josephine" and Jerry becomes the bass fiddle-playing "Daphne."

Within the troupe, they must also elude the notice of tough singer and leader Sweet Sue (Spencer Rose Oberman), who administers her group with the help of her bumbling assistant Beinstock (Ian Parmenter). As she says, there are two things she won't tolerate in her outfit: liquor and men. Both, however, are present.

The play's transvestites are forced to cope with wearing (and dancing in) stilettos, a challenge most male leads do not have to face. However, they embrace their dives into feminine clothing and footwear.

"They were great about that," said Donovan. "They were actually looking forward to getting in the heels so they could actually get into character and do it."

Freshman Anthony Jackson had another thing to say about wearing heels, though.

"It hurts," he said. "Well, it doesn't hurt so much now, but it did for a while."

Thrown into this band of girls by chance, Jerry and Joe quickly become smitten with Sugar Kane Kowalczyk (Beth Stafford Laird), a sweet, na've singer and ukulele player, who has had a bad run of men. She drinks to numb the pain of her perpetual disappointment. As she says, she always gets the "fuzzy end of the lollipop," especially when it comes to men, but she hopes to end that streak in Miami by catching a young millionaire.

As the stage adaptation of a famous film, Sugar's plot is going to be familiar to many, but that doesn't worry Donovan, who encouraged the actors to make the characters their own.

"With Beth, specifically, playing Sugar, I like that she's not doing a Marilyn [Monroe] impersonation, that she has the na'veteacute; and she has the innocence of that character and the essence of it, but she's not doing a specific impersonation of Marilyn," Donovan said. "With this show I wanted to encourage them to really play with their individual characters and have fun with them and give them very specific characteristics and traits. Those little details are what are going to make this show fun to watch."