The American Film Institute put “Some Like It Hot” — Billy Wilder’s 1959 film starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe — on the top of its funniest-movies list.
“Sugar” — the musical based on the film, now getting a spirited revival at Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford — is unlikely to top any similar theatrical list, hamstrung by forgettable Jule Styne songs and regrettable Bob Merrill lyrics.
The team at WBT gives it everything they’ve got — Charles Repole’s cast fires on all cylinders, Matthew Hemesath’s costumes are brilliant, Michael O’Steen’s choreography is sublime and Jeff Tanski’s orchestra sounds great — but they can only take it so far in service to a lackluster musical.
It’s like asking the Yankees to play Wiffle ball.
“Sugar” is still the story of two out-of-work Depression Era, Chicago musicians (Gary Lynch as Joe and Eric Santagata as Jerry) who witness a Mob massacre and must leave town. They don dresses and join the all-girls band, Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators, on a train to Miami.
Joe (now Josephine), falls for Sugar Kane (Colleen Hawks), a ukelele-playing blonde bombshell who has a taste for liquor and the wrong saxophone players.
Once in Miami, Jerry (now Daphne), catches the eye of a dirty-old-man Sir Osgood Fielding Jr. (Ed Romanoff), who happens to be a millionaire. Joe pretends to be a millionaire to win Sugar over — and she falls for him.
Before long, the mob — a funny, energetic crew of tap-dancing bad guys led by Yoav Levin as Spats Palazzo — shows up in Miami and things get interesting.
A sample of Bob Merrill’s groan-worthy lyrics, from “Sun on My Face”: “We’re giving winter that old double whammy/At 8:10 a.m., Miami, Miami. ”
And Jule Styne’s music is forgettable in the extreme.
With the exception of “Hey, Why Not!” — a cute number with Sugar and a crowd of sweet-singing chorus boys — the tunes failed to land. “Doin’ it for Sugar” might just be the weakest Act 1 number ever written — and it is inexplicably repeated in Act 2 and then in the finale.
But they’re giving it their all at the Elmsford dinner theater.
The excellent chorus spins and twirls and jumps into what seems an endless supply of costumes — the girls in show outfits, the girls in bathing suits, in nightgowns, in traveling clothes, in nurse’s whites — at a dizzying rate.
Hemesath’s costumes are simply impeccable. Rack after rack of outfits make their way onto the stage, each so well-appointed, so right for the characters. The costumes for Sugar, in particular, are just gorgeous.
The voices are quite fine, with some particularly nice harmonies, and Tanski’s WBT band never sounded better.
Colleen Hawks brings a pitch-perfect Marilyn Monroe impersonation — breathy, adorable and, yes, quite curvaceous — to the role of Sugar, a girl who always gets “the fuzzy end of the lollipop.”
Hawks’ timing is fine, her singing voice clear and sweet, as in the 11 o’clock number, “The People in My Life,” in which she finds real emotion.
While Gary Lynch seems less suited to the role of Joe/Josephine — he lacks the magnetism of a leading man — he still manages to find the chemistry with Santagata and Hawks. His delivery of Joe’s big ballad, the forgotten-before-it’s-finished “It’s Always Love,” was a bit stilted, with an earnestness that seemed to come from out of nowhere.
As Osgood, Romanoff sings the creepy “November Song” about how “naughty old men need love,” but seems to grow into the role in Act 2, hitting his comic stride by going all out.
Eric Santagata brings an endearing quality to Jerry/Daphne (the Jack Lemmon part), a man in women’s clothing who — despite the draft — grows to like wearing a dress. His comic dance with Romanoff — two men dancing together, one in a dress, to “Beautiful Through and Through” — brought down the house.
The hard work makes a difference, but it can only get you so far.
A Wiffle ball isn’t going to clear the wall at Yankee Stadium.
Where: Westchester Broadway Theatre, 1 Broadway Plaza, Elmsford.
When: Through July 3. Performances are Thursdays through Sundays, with select Wednesday matinee and evening performances. Wednesday and Thursday matinees: lunch at 11:30 a.m., show at 1 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday evenings: dinner at 6 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Sunday matinees: lunch at noon, show at 1:30 p.m. Sunday evenings: dinner at 5 p.m., show at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $62 and $75, plus tax. (Discounts for groups of 20 or more, children, students and senior citizens at selected performances.)
Next at WBT: “Peter Pan” runs July 8 through Aug. 15.
Photo by John Vecchiolla: The stars of “Sugar” at Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford are, from left: Eric Santagata (Daphne/Jerry); Colleen Hawks (Sugar Kane); and Gary Lynch (Josephine/Joe).