Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Some Like It Hot Is A Lively Frolic
Also see Richard's review of Doing Judy
The Best of Broadway folks have brought to the Golden Gate Theatre a good old-fashioned full scale musical: Jule Styne, Bob Merrill, and Peter Stone's Some Like It Hot. The zingy, top flight dance musical features 20 tappers who dance their hearts out in several big numbers. It also stars screen legend Tony Curtis who can't sing, can't dance but captures and holds the audience's attention as Osgood Fielding III.
The Billy Wilder and I.A.L Diamond story goes a long way back with the classic film comedy hitting the screens in 1959. I had watched many of the scenes with Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis being filmed at the Hotel del Coronado. Jule Styne and Bob Merrill put music and words to a score and presented Sugar at the Majestic Theatre on April 9, 1972. I was privileged to be in the opening night audience to watch Bobbie Morse and Tony Roberts in drag trying to outsmart those gangsters from Chicago. The title was changed back to the original Some like it Hot when it was revived in London at the Prince Edward Theatre during the spring of 1992. I was able to catch Tommy Steele and Billy Boyle repeats the roles of Joe and Jerry. Now, the latest edition of the musical is making a 30 city tour with the venerable Tony Curtis taking over the Joe E. Brown role.
For those who don't know, the action in Some Like It Hot takes place in 1929 and it focuses on two musicians, Joe (Arthur Hanket) and Jerry (Timothy Gulan), who witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. They are forced to disguise themselves as "Josephine" and "Daphne," the homeliest members of an all girl jazz band led by Sweet Sue (Lenora Nemetz) and en route to Miami. In the film, Tony Curtis played one of the on-the-run musicians and now he plays the elder gentleman who tries to woo the affections of "Daphne." This newly revised musical is a bright combination of misleading identities, reversed sex roles, cross dressing, slapstick, great one liners and romance.
The musical has 21 very nice songs by Styne and Merrill, including the popular "Doin' It for Sugar" and the great torch song, "People in My Life." There is a very strong dancing and choral chorus and some great bit characters like the manager Bienstock (Gerry Vichi) and Spats the gangster (William Ryall) whose tap dancing is phenomenal.
Tony Curtis is no singer or dancer, and this musical proves it; however he is still suave and sexy in a deliberately klutzy way. Curtis enters the musical about three fourths of the way into the first act by descending the center steps of the hotel set mugging all the way and he never stops. He makes fun of himself and that is the charm of his performance. He is having fun up there with all those girls and he does not care who knows it. He is a real hoot.
Arthur Hanket and Timothy Gulan as Joe and Jerry don't have the charisma of previous actors who have taken the role, but they have impressive solo turns. Gulan gets more mileage as Daphne and he is very good in the volatile night of magic with Osgood, reveling in his bride-to-be rapture. Hanket has a good, strong voice and he is very good when he becomes the phony rich man with a yacht out on the bay. The seduction scene is very good.
Six foot five inch tower of talent William Ryall is a unique tap dancer. His "gansta tap" along with his fellow gangsters as they machine gun the opposition by actually tapping the shots is amazing.
Jodi Carmeli as Sugar imitates the great Marilyn Monroe perfectly. She is the spitting image of the movie star legend. She has a full bodied voice to match her curvy body. Her rendition of the ballad "People in My Life" is a show stopper. She also shines in the number "Runnin' Wild." Leonora Nemetz also has great pipes, and her voice is big and husky. Gerry Vichi as the cigar chewing manager Bienstock is fun to watch. He reminds me of an old time burlesque comic, running around on the stage.
The big production numbers "Runnin' Wild" and "When You Meet a Man in Chicago" are great and it is good to see a full complement of dancers onstage doing these numbers. The orchestra, under the direction of John Monaco, is in top form and orchestrations by Michael Gibson, Philip J. Lang and Mark Hummel (Julie Wilson's piano accompanist) are right on the mark. Sets, lighting and costumes are first class. This does not look like a bus and truck tour show. If you like old-fashioned musical theater, this is the show to see.
Some Like It Hot plays through November 3rd at the Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco. For tickets call 415-512-7770 or visit www.bestofbroadway-sf.com.
Best of Broadway has coming up the pre-Broadway run of Baz Luhrmann's La Boheme, opening October 16 at the Curran, Beauty and the Beast at the Orpheum Theatre on the same night and Rent on November 19. Tickets on sale for all three at same phone number as above.