Jule Styne and Bob Merrill's 1972 Broadway musical comedy, Sugar, based on the classic Billy Wilder film, "Some Like It Hot," will get resurrected and made-over in a 2002 national tour with two marquee draws added: Tony Curtis starring as an aged suitor and the story's original, well-known title.
Curtis, of course, starred in the 1959 picture as one of two Windy City musicians (his pal was played by Jack Lemmon) who witness a mob murder in 1929 and flee to Florida. They escape in women's clothing — finding refuge in all-girl jazz band in which a comely, blonde named Sugar is a member.
In the musical Some Like It Hot, Curtis will play millionaire Osgood Fielding III, a senior who is attracted to "Daphne," the Lemmon character. Meanwhile, "Josie," the original Curtis role, gets sweet on Sugar and disguises himself as a millionaire.
Director-choreographer Dan Siretta helms the new version, which will boast a revised libretto by the project's original book writer, Peter Stone. Some songs that were cut (including "The People in Your Life") in 1972 are being re-added and Curtis is getting the gift of a popular Styne number that's well-known and not previously associated with the show. Siretta and producer Diane Masters were so excited about the song that they didn't want to reveal it just yet. Casting for the Jerry and Joe (who drag it up as Daphne and Josephine, respectively) is ongoing.
Styne and Merrill wrote 75 songs for Sugar (they had previously collaborated on the hit, Funny Girl and the flop, Prettybelle) and Gower Champion directed and choreographed. Hopes were high in 1972 that Sugar might be a smash in the tradition Champion's Hello, Dolly! or Funny Girl. Robert Morse, Tony Roberts, Cyril Ritchard (in the role Curtis will soon play) and Elaine Joyce were the original stars. David Merrick produced. Morse and Roberts brought the house down nightly when they donned bosomy dresses to sing "The Beauty That Drives Men Mad." The show ran 505 performances, and had a score that was considered potent only in pockets and a troubled second act. Siretta and Stone plan to fix that, and to improve upon a London revival from 1992 that starred Tommy Steele (the late Merrill was not happy with the London version, Siretta said). Rights to the title, Some Like It Hot, were granted to that London staging 10 years ago and to this planned all-new staging produced by Masters and Jeffrey Spolan. The powerful Merrick was not able to snag the title rights from MGM, which may be one reason the show isn't better known. Masters said nobody knows what a show called Sugar is about. The 50-city national tour begins June 4, 2002, presented by Theatre Under the Stars at Houston's new Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. The hope is that the tour will end up on Broadway, Masters said.
The 1972 score includes "Doing It for Sugar," "Beautiful Through and Through," "Hey, Why Not!," "We Could Be Close" (a duet for Daphne and Sugar that also brought down the house in 1972-73), "What Do You Give to the Man Who's Had Everything?," "Penniless Bums" and "Sun on My Face," among others.
Siretta says the orchestrations by Philip Lang remain a dream and "the nature of Styne's melodic line is masculine, it's powerful, it moves forward." Styne died in 1994, Merrill in 1998. Siretta said his goal as director-choreographer is to streamline the storytelling and make sure it has the comic pace and flow of the film.
"I'm trying to hold onto something that's impeccable about the film — the rhythm," Siretta said, adding that he's taking a cue from the late Merrill. "Bob liked to move things faster — to say it and move it along and get out of there."
Both the 1992 London revival cast and the original Broadway cast are preserved on cast albums.
— By Kenneth Jones