Regional Reviews: Seattle
Some Like It Hot at the Paramount
Also see David's recent review of Hair
It's hard not to say something nice about Tony Curtis in his musical comedy debut in Some Like It Hot, which is nearing the end of a long national tour at the Paramount. It's a bit harder to say much for the show itself, because whether by this title (from the classic Curtis/Marilyn Monroe/Jack Lemmon film it's based on) or its original Broadway moniker Sugar, the Peter Stone (book), Jule Styne (music), and Bob Merrill musical will never be a classic.
Some music originally cut from the Broadway version has been restored: a Jule Styne classic "I Fall In Love Too Easily" is interpolated for Curtis, plus a Styne/Merrill song that was used in the West Coast tour (Sugar's "The People In My Life", a bland "People" wannabe) and the standard "Running Wild" from the film. This only adds running time (which over two and a half hours total) to a show in which faster and funnier should have been the edict.
The Stone script is actually a rather enjoyable facsimile of the movie script by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, in which two musicians on the lam from witnessing the St. Valentine's Day massacre wind up en femme in an all girl band. Joe/Chloe falls for tipsy blonde bombshell Sugar Kane and pretends (out of drag) to be a millionaire to woo her, while Osgood, a lecherous old millionaire, pursues Jerry/Daphne - and Jerry actually starts to fall for him.
Despite undistinguished direction and rather abysmal choreography by Dan Siretta, Curtis and his co-stars keep Some Like It Hot from being too tepid. Curtis' role as Osgood doesn't begin until late act one, but he earns his entrance ovation and final standing ovation through old-fashioned movie star charm and seeming to be having a ball on stage. He looks great for a man in his seventies and never seems winded during his dance steps. He talk sings his way agreeably through the patter numbers and plays very well opposite his Daphne, the amiably rubber faced Timothy Gulan, especially in their Nelson and Jeannette genre duet, "Beautiful Through and Through." Gulan shares the show's best moment in his train sleeper duet "We Could Be Close' with Jodi Carmeli's winsome and full-voiced Monroe-ish Sugar. Arthur Hanket is fine as Joe, doing an amusing Thurston Howell the 3rd prototype millionaire, and really does a nice job on the show's single notable dramatic song "It's Always Love." However, his Josie is hardly distinguishable from Gulan's Daphne, both in appearance and vocalization, something that was never the case with Curtis' Joe and Lemmon's Daphne in the original film
Lenora Nemetz, a wonderful Broadway presence in the seventies (she was the first to succeed Chita Rivera as Velma in Chicago and made an unforgettable waitress in Working), is strong if somewhat wasted here as bandleader Sweet Sue. With a Gwen Verdon-like rasp to her voice, and moving through the choreography with great style and elan, one wonders why this lady hasn't ever been in the Broadway revival of Chicago, where she would be put to far better use. William Ryall as gangster Spats is also a very accomplished hoofer, but saddled with mind-numbingly-repetitive tap choreography that grows more grating with each appearance. Veteran comic Larry Storch brings all his shtick to bear, to little avail, in the non-role of Bienstock.
Suzy Benzinger's snazzy jazz era costumes and Ken Bllington's sharp lighting design add much more to the proceedings than the chintzy and unattractive sets designed by James Leonard Joy.
There are worse musicals and productions than Some Like It Hot, but it's sad that such stalwarts as Stone, Styne & Merrill fell short of the mark in its translation from stage and screen. But, as Curtis' Osgood says in closing "Nobody's perfect."
Some Like It Hot national tour at The Paramount Theatre, 9th & Pine in downtown Seattle through May 4. For further information visit the Paramount Theatre web site at www.theparamount.com.- David-Edward Hughes