Simon Parris's picture
TP Rating: 
Date of Show: 
Wednesday, 29th September 2010 (All day)
State Theatre
A spoonful of Christie helps the musical go down, in the most delightful way.
The type of charming, old-fashioned musical comedy that we would never see professionally if not for The Production Company, Sugar is a deliciously sweet treat. An extremely talented, well-cast company bring the colourful characters to life, having as much fun as the audience in the process. 
Based on the 1959 movie Some Like It Hot, the Depression era action follows two desperate musicians who join an all girl band after witnessing a Chicago mob hit. Joe, now Josephine, and Jerry, now Daphne, travel to Florida with Sweet Sue’s Society Syncopators, both falling for the glamorous, but vulnerable, Sugar Kane.
On a barer stage than usual, Orchestra Victoria are arranged big band style, and have the fantastic sound to match. Newcomer George Ellis conducts the band with flair and confidence, making easy work of the atmospheric underscoring and multiple dance breaks.
Largely using colour and lighting on the rear cyclorama as a backdrop, the main set piece is an impressive construction representing the sleeping berths on the train to Florida. Costumes by Fleur Thiemeyer, another newcomer, are attractive, well constructed and extensive, given the range of characters played by the hard working ensemble.
Sugar has a hilarious book, and Director Adam Cook lands every joke, creating plenty of visual comedy as well. Choreography is a highlight of the show, with witty moves, entertaining routines and tight formations. The tap dancing gangsters, lead by Peter Lowrey, were an absolute hoot. TPC should immediately sign up Christopher Horsey to choreograph again next year.
Mitchell Butel and Matt Hetherington were in sensational form, reveling in the comedy of errors and singing strongly. Chameleon Butel loses himself in another distinctive comic portrayal, balancing Jerry’s macho bluster with Daphne’s delicate twinkle. His bathing suit entrance, in pink turban and tyre tube, was priceless. Hetherington again demonstrates his unique blend of leading man looks and character actor skills. His 11 o’clock number "It’s Always Love" was outstanding.
Ever gorgeous Christie Whelan proves herself well and truly deserving of the title of leading lady. Adopting a breathless baby doll voice, she still conveys a full range of expression where lesser actresses would just be trying to maintain the voice. She also adapts the voice perfectly for singing and overall brings humanity to a role that could have been a cartoon character in lesser hands.
Dennis Olsen is all class as besotted millionaire Sir Osgood Fielding III. Melissa Langton is a force to be reckoned with as Sue, especially when she has the chance to belt out a number.

Sugar plays at the State Theatre, the Arts Centre, until Sunday 3 October. Lovers of old fashioned musical comedy will find much to enjoy. 

Photos: Jeff Busby 


About the Author

Simon has appeared in about 40 productions over the past thirty years. Favourite roles include Eugene Fodor in Crazy for You, Mr Fox in Mack and Mabel, Max in The Sound of Music, Freddy in My Fair Lady, Julio in Paint Your Wagon, Marcellus in The Music Man and Grantaire in Les Miserables. Simon has directed several school productions. He choreographed Urinetown and Little Shop of Horrors for St Michael’s Grammar School, then went on to direct Hot Mikado and the Australian premiere of 13 for St Michael’s. Simon served on the Music Theatre Guild of Victoria Committee for five years as Treasurer and is currently on the Board of The Opera Studio Melbourne. He is also a keen audience member, having seen 51 shows in six weeks on a recent trip to London/Europe. Simon also reviews for the Sunday Herald Sun.