In American culture, it’s funny how putting two guys in drag, and watching them pine over a woman which they’ve known only under disguise can be so hilarious. But as a testament, the 1959 Billy Wilder film “Some Like It Hot,” featuring Ms. Jack(eline) Lemmon and Tony(beth) Curtis was voted the funniest red, white and blue movie of all time by the American Film Institute in 2000.
Under the direction of Judy Nichols, the cast and crew at Bremerton Community Theatre will be acting out the antics of the movie’s musical stage version, “Sugar” through May 6.
The BCT production, which opened April 6, has been labeled zany, outrageous and touching.
“I’ve got tap-dancing gangsters, I’ve got girls dressed the same and guys dressed in drag, I’ve got sparklers on stage … it’s all happening at the Bremerton Community Theatre,” Nichols said.
The story of “Sugar” is set at the very beginning of the Great American Depression, when in Chicago, the story’s protagonists — Joe and Jerry — witness the St. Valentines Day massacre. That earns each a price on his head from mob boss Spats Columbo.
The two musicians escape Columbo’s thugs, but the only work they can find on short notice is as two parts of an all-girl orchestra in Florida.
So they don the drag, start calling themselves Joesephine and Daphne and travel south.
On the BCT stage, those lead roles (Joe/Josephine and Jerry/Daphne) will be played by Eric Richardson and Chris Dolan, respectively. The woman they fall in love with, Sugar “Kane” Kowalczyk — incidently the lead singer and ukelele player in the band — will be played by Alena Dashiell.
In the 1959 film, the seductive lead woman’s role was played by the one and only Marilyn Monroe.
“I didn’t really have a girl that was Sugar at my auditions until (Dashiell) walked through the door,” Nichols said, noting the actress’ vocal prowess.
The entire show has a bit of musical flare in fact, being set at the end of the roaring 20s — the musical birthplace of swing, big band and the like. Originally choreographed by the esteemed Gower Champion, the show also employs a myriad of ballroom dancing, “Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers type stuff,” Nichols said.
As Joe/Joesephine and Jerry/Daphne seek refuge under the disguise of gender, they find themselves conflicted and love struck under the spell of Sugar. Joe finally woos her as he dons yet another disguise – that of a millionaire, playing “Mr. Right” whom he had overheard Sugar describe.
“It’s such a great role for a guy to play,” Nichols said of Joe. “First you are a guy then you are a girl, then you are a guy again trying to balance the two.”
The BCT cast has also been challenged to balance their collective dramatic background with the roaring comedic script of “Sugar.” And Nichols noted that they’ve handled the task well.
“I think (Some Like It Hot) is one of the funniest, best movies ever written,” she said. “Trying to teach comedic timing is very difficult, but I got really, really lucky with the cast I have … I can’t tell you how excited I am.
“Any time Jerry is on stage pretending to be Daphne is just priceless.”