Talent comes through in musical

September 12, 1991|By Winifred Walsh | Winifred Walsh,Evening Sun Staff

"Some Like It Hot" currently at the Harlequin Dinner Theatre in Rockville, is an entertaining fast paced, glossy musical comedy based on the classic film starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe.

The pleasant but unmemorable music is by Jule Styne with lyrics by Bob Merrill. The Harlequin production was directed with some panache by M. Seth Reines and the lively dance numbers were choreographed by Millie Garvey.

The musical version opened on Broadway April 2, 1972, under the name "Sugar" and ran for 15 months. It starred Robert Morse, Tony Roberts and Elaine Joyce.

The script, adapted for the stage by Peter Stone, does not live up to the hilarious Billy Wilder screenplay. It skims the surface of the original story and seems to use the scenes more as an excuse for staging the musical sequences rather than giving substance to the colorful cast of characters.

In the play two unemployed musicians, Joe and Jerry, unfortunately witness the St. Valentine's Day massacre in Chicago. They run for cover, the gangsters in pursuit, and find a haven as "female" members of an all-girl band headed for Miami.

During the tour, fraught with amusing narrow escape shenanigans, the two fall in love with Sugar Kane, the band's very sexy vocalist. Joe gets the girl and Jerry starts taking his "little woman" role too seriously as he relishes the attentions of an ardent millionaire suitor.

This production has a tendency to overplay the vaudevillian aspects of the female impersonations instead of refining and developing the farcical story line. There are some good numbers executed well by a mostly talented cast and ensemble. They include: "The Beauty That Drives Men Wild," "We Could Be Close," "Magic Nights" and "It's Always Love."

Robert C. Torri and Mischa Kischkum play Joe and Jerry, respectively, with a moderate amount of vigor. Liz Donohoe Weber does nicely as Sweet Sue the leader of the band. Jesse Foreman is a riot as the slick gangster Spats and Buddy Piccolino stands out as the over-eager millionaire.

K? "Some Like It Hot" continues at Harlequin through Sept. 29.

*

Larry Shue's very funny comedy "The Nerd" is being given tepid treatment on stage at The Spotlighters, where it will play through Sept. 29.

Shue died at age 38 in a plane crash but he left a legacy of exceptional comedy writing that elevated the most absurd traits of mankind to polished high satire. His finest work was probably the hilarious farce, "The Foreigner."

"The Nerd" revolves around Willum Cubbert, a young, mild-mannered architect who bears a terrible psychological burden of obligation. His life was saved during the Vietnam War by Rick Steadman, a man he never met.

Rick suddenly shows up at Willum's door flashing his feeble-minded grin and carrying a full suitcase. Within a week, Rick's tight little mind, terrible manners, shuffling gait and idiotic talk and ways drive Willum to near violence. But, wait, there is an uproarious and clever twist at the end.

Directed by Harriet Broady the work lacks the lightning fast pace this type of farce demands. Good split-second comedy timing is imperative here or the scenes will fall flat as they often do in this production.

Tom Seibert as Willum is convincing but too heavy in this light role, which calls for rapid reactions and skillful double takes. But then Seibert is probably trying to compensate for the deficiency of effort and proper response on the part of some of the other actors. Namely, Joe Giffels, who not only seems too young (and neat) for the role of the slobbish nerd but also locks into a narrow, one-dimensional interpretation that quickly bores.

The actor's annoying, moronic delivery sounds like a poor imitation of Mortimer Snerd. To add to the ineffectiveness of the show, Julia Ro, with her passively amateur rendition of Willum's upstairs girlfriend is woefully miscast.

Rodney Atkins is charming as a cynical drama critic but is too laid back in a role that requires high energy. Roger Buchanan gives the best and most consistent performance as a harassed businessman. Ellen Strauss Rhudy is pleasantly believable as his zany wife, and Lyle Shemer is amusing as their neurotic son.

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