Wow! I can’t believe this is the first thing I’ve contributed to MBIP since before its most recent hiatus, but lately I’ve been pretty busy with the usual: Yes, I’m doing another show. However, this time I’m not directing the production, I’ll actually be back onstage for the first time in over two years, last appearing as the role of Fagin in “Oliver!” at Peoria Players (which I also covered on MBIP back in February 2014).
My role this time around is quite a change from Fagin, but the shoes are every bit as challenging to fill (though maybe for very different reasons). Since late March I’ve been in rehearsals for a musical version of the classic film “Some Like it Hot” that starred Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and yes, Marilyn Monroe.
The stage version takes its name from Monroe’s character and is titled simply SUGAR, though it is often billed as “SUGAR: The Some Like it Hot Musical” to help associate with its source material.
Anyway, the last time I contributed to MBIP was back in the fall, when I saw Jack Lemmon’s son in his one-man show about his father at the Apollo. I got to chat with him briefly afterwards, and little did I know then that about nine months later I would be playing a role that his father was Oscar nominated for!
Yes, I’m playing the part of Jerry/Daphne, one half of the musician duo hiding out from gangsters in an all-girl band and fighting for the attention of “Miss Sugar Kane” with my partner in crime Joe aka “Josephine”. We dress as women and join Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopaters, an all-female band about to leave town for an engagement at a Miami Beach hotel. Complications arise when Joe, now known as Josephine, falls in love with beautiful band singer Sugar Kane, 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. is pursuing Daphne, unaware she really is Jerry in drag. As much as he knows he needs to reveal his true gender to his over-amorous paramour, Jerry is beginning to enjoy all the expensive gifts bestowed upon him on a regular basis.
Total chaos erupts when Spatz and his gang descend upon the hotel and discover Josephine and Daphne’s true identities.So I suppose it’s fitting that I make my return to MBIP to cover this, and I guess it can serve as a sequel of sorts to when I saw “A Twist of Lemmon” at the Apollo Theatre in September! You may also be familiar with the actor Robert Morse (known best as of late for playing Bert Cooper on ‘Mad Men’) who originated the role of “Jerry/Daphne” onstage when SUGAR played Broadway 40-some years ago. So I’m in pretty good company on this one, I’d say.
SUGAR is being presented right now at Corn Stock Theatre, and we will have just had our Opening Night when you read this. If you’re not familiar with Corn Stock’s summer space, it’s quite unlike any other theatre you’re probably used to. It’s a big green and yellow tent in upper Bradley Park that has operated there now for over sixty years! Facilities have improved and evolved through those decades and continue to do so, but the essence of a night out at the tent has remained the same practically since the beginning.
So you’re probably wondering...outdoors? In the summer? Yes, you do compete with the elements doing shows here. Lightning can fry electrical equipment, critters can run onstage, storms can stop shows, it’s all happened at some point, but it’s all part of the fun, charm, and challenge of producing and attending outdoor theatre.
Audiences typically sit surrounding three-quarters of the space inside the tent, and actors make entrances and exits via several ramps placed throughout the space. The audience is then very close to the action and performers. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a much different experience than what you probably typically think of when you think of attending a theatre production.
And since Corn Stock is an outdoor theatre, there isn’t really a lobby...it’s a patio! During the run of a show, audiences are able to sit, stroll and socialize before the show and during intermission or visit the concession stand for refreshments.
Back during Corn Stock’s 50th anniversary the erected a Commemorative “Brick Garden” adjacent to the concession stand where you can read and reminisce over names and memories of past shows and performers (many of whom are now gone).
Backstage is no exception to the outdoor elements either. The actor’s dressing rooms, the makeup room, its all outdoors!
The makeup room is usually Grand Central Station before and during a show. Actors prepare their hair and faces, and it serves as the communal “green room” (waiting space) during the production. It’s mere steps away from where the audience sits, so backstage noise is often a concern.
SUGAR features a live 12-piece band and they sit just offstage in a makeshift pit and accompany us performers that are hustling onstage in the heat and humidity! In an age where prerecorded music is often considered a more “cost-effective” (cheap and easy) convenience, you are still able to hear live musicians perform with the live actors here at SUGAR!
What’s fun about a show like SUGAR is how it captures so many of the classic moments from the familiar film source so well. It’s also not a show produced very often, so it carries a unique sense of being “new” to most of the audience, but also feels familiar thanks to the film counterpart. And the American Film Institute ranked “Some Like It Hot” as the number one comedy film of all time, so yeah, the musical is every bit as hilarious. Hey, who’s that cute gal sitting up there by Sugar?
Well, if you want to see more of “Daphne” and the others, SUGAR runs every night at 7:30 now through June 11th!
And SUGAR is just the first show of five in Corn Stock’s Summer Season, so there’s much more to come! For more information on SUGAR and upcoming shows, click here: Corn Stock Theatre—2016 Summer Season.