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'Sugar' to open Corn Stock Theatre's summer season

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Mike Reams figured he missed out on his chance to dress in drag and run across the stage. Too old for it, he says.

But he didn’t have to give up on being involved with one of his bucket list musicals, “Sugar,” which opens Corn Stock Theatre’s 63rd season Friday at 7:30 p.m. under the tent in Upper Bradley Park. The show run nightly through June 11.

Also billed as the “Some Like It Hot musical,” Reams said “Sugar” has been one of his favorite musicals since he first heard the music many years ago. “I always liked it and I always wanted to be in it. But nobody did it around here and I got too old. So I jumped at the chance to direct it,” he said just before the start of a dress rehearsal.

“It is such a fun show I am very surprised it hasn’t been done more often,” Reams said.

The musical follows the film “Some Like It Hot” very closely, he said. Anybody familiar with the movie that started Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe will recognize the story. “Unfortunately, most people under the age of 30 aren’t that familiar with the movie, which came out in 1961. But it was fun to watch them during our first read through, at the way they laughed.

“You know, the movie was ranked by the American Film Institute as the number one comedy of all time, so it’s going to be funny. Then add the music and lyrics by people who know what they are doing and you have a good show,” Reams said.

The music and lyrics are by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, respectively, with the book by Peter Stone. It follows the antics of Joe and Jerry, unemployed musicians forced to go on the lam after they witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago. To escape pursuing gangsters they dress as women, call themselves Josephine and Daphne, and join an all-girls band leaving by train for Miami.

Complications pop up, naturally, when Joe falls in love with the beautiful Sugar Kane, the band’s singer, and Daphne/Jerry gets pursued by millionaire Osgood Fielding Jr., who thinks he’s a woman.

It’s unclear why the musical did not go by the same name as the film, which Reams said he believes was a mistake. “It would have been much more popular if it was called ‘Some Like It Hot The Musical,’ which they did call it during a national tour in 2000, with Tony Curtis in the role of Osgood. It was at the forefront of making a musical from a well-known movie but it was like they could buy the script but not the title.”

Regardless, Reams said he was able to get a great cast of mostly community theatre veterans for his production. The roles of Joe/Josephine and Jerry/Daphne are played by well-known vets Jarod Hazzard and Chip Joyce. “Those guys are a hoot together. They get along really well anyway, which works out great on stage,” Reams said. “And when they’re in drag? It’s not pretty, but it’s not supposed to be.”

Jes King portrays Sugar, the role made famous by Marilyn Monroe. “She is funny and endearing. She’s not trying to be Marilyn Monroe because that would be a mistake. But she does have some of the quality of Marilyn Monroe, including the naivete,” he said.

Other top roles are played by Dan Challacombe as Osgood Fielding, Bill Ciardini as Bienstock, Tamra Challacombe as Sweet Sue and Aaron Elwell as Spats.

Andrea Molina is musical director and conducts the 13-pieve orchestra and Erica Franken choreographed the show. Sara Blume headed the costuming while the set, including the double-decker train, was designed by Chip Joyce and built by Chris Franken.

“It has been almost an embarrassment of riches to have this much talent involved with this show,” Reams said.

Tickets for “Sugar” are $20 for adults and $15 for students and are on sale at the Corn Stock box office. They can be ordered by calling 676-2196.

Season tickets also are on sale for $70 for all five shows.

After “Sugar,” the 2016 season continues with the comedy “Cheaper By the Dozen,” adapted from the autobiographic novel written by Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. Dates for that show, directed by Amy Williams, are June 24 through July 2.

The third show of the summer is “Seussical the Musical,” directed by Peggy Hupp, on July 15 through 23. That will be followed by the musical drama “The Spitfire Grill,” directed by Eric Ewan, on Aug. 5 through 13.

The 2016 season will close with the musical “Memphis,” directed by Bryan Blanks, on Aug. 26 through Sept. 3.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).

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