Two unemployed male musicians decide to impersonate women and join an all-girl band. That is the basic story line for Mohawk High School's spring musical, "Sugar," but the story takes many unexpected turns to keep the audience guessing.
First staged in 1972, the comedy is based on the 1959 Marilyn Monroe film, "Some Like it Hot." As the curtain rises, Sweet Sue and her all girl band, the Society Syncopaters, are performing in a Chicago night club in February 1931. Katie Smith portrays Sue. Having served in the army, Sue lays down the rules and expects them to be followed. Joe Godinez as the band's manager, Bienstock, always seems to be two steps behind her.
Jarred Shellhouse and Hunter Jordan play down-and-out musicians, Joe and Jerry, who approach Bienstock about a job. The band is short two people, but the guys are the wrong gender. The girls are preparing to leave for Miami, Fla., so Bienstock says he will pay Joe and Jerry to carry some bags to his car, parked in the Clark Street Garage. While there, the musicians witness a murder committed by gangster Spatz Palazzo (Brandon Allomong) and his henchmen. The pair manages to escape with their lives, but Spats delivers a raplike song and dance routine, "Tear the Town Apart," to declare his intentions to find and kill Jerry and Joe so they won't "talk."
This new threat serves as motivation for Joe and Jerry to re-apply for the openings in the band, disguised as "Josephine" and "Daphne." They are hired and booked on the train to Miami. Flaunting their new femininity with "The Beauty that Drives Men Mad," they flirt with the audience before becoming acquainted with their fellow bandmates. Arriving at the last minute is Sugar Kane, a singer and ukulele player, portrayed by Rachel Flood. Josephine and Daphne bump into her in the ladies' room as she is sneaking refreshment from a flask, against Sweet Sue's rules. They promise not to let anyone know.
As the band members settle into their berths for the night, Sugar takes a liking to Daphne and they sing "We Could Be Close." While Joe is shaving in the restroom, Sugar interrupts, but he manages to stay composed and undiscovered. Sugar confides that she is hoping to fall in love with a millionaire who wears glasses and owns a yacht. She has heard that Miami has plenty of available, rich men. It turns out all the ladies have high hopes for Miami as they sing "Sun on My Face" in peek-a-boo fashion from their berths on the train.
The girls arrive at the up-scale Semiole-Ritz Hotel to find a line-up of elderly millionaires lounging around the grounds, all in navy blazers, khaki slacks and straw hats. One of them, Sir Osgood (Levi Edgington), immediately approaches Daphne and strikes up a conversation that ends with a pinch and gets him a whack with Jerry's instrument case. Undaunted by the rebuff, Osgood and his wealthy friends hobble through "November Song."
Alarmed at being hit upon, Jerry tells Joe he wants to leave before their identities are discovered. Now in love with Sugar, Joe does not want to be away from her. Besides, he has a plan to impersonate a wealthy yacht owner and try to win her heart. Sugar falls for it, launching Joe into a guilt trip for deceiving a girl who deserves something better. For his part, Jerry is enjoying the expensive gifts from Osgood and thinking about the secure life the two of them could have.
Jerry and Joe spend the rest of the show trying to unravel the web of deception they have created. Things seem to be moving in the right direction when Spatz and his gang show up at the hotel and recognize the two impostors. Expect a few more surprises before the final curtain. Even though Rachel is lovely as Sugar, my "best actor" pick would be Hunter Jordan, who makes the most of his costumes and adds plenty of physical comedy to every scene.
A talented chorus backs up the main characters. The Society Syncopaters are: Liz DeTray, Hanna Burks, Erin Conner, Ari Lowery, Haley Leeth, Joanie Lininger, Candace Lease, Brianna Risner, Michaela Cook, Meghan Chaffee, Ciara Long, Deon Morter, Erika Coldiron, Kayla Dunlap and Shantel Weaver. The men's chorus, who also take on multiple minor roles are: Erik Amicarelli, John Danner, Tyler Krupp, Mitch Parker, Alec Stillberger, Andrew Loose, Logan Shumaker, Tyler King, Brady Kohlenberg, Alex Mains and Bryan Vogel.
In addition to a number of drops, the set by Jim Cook, Donnie Shellhouse and Brady Kohlenberg includes some multi-purpose pieces that help speed up scene changes. Getting a workout as the stage crew are: Lindsay Daniel, Kayla Draper, Nicole Kieffer, Allison Shumacher, Gabby Pool, Kim Kramer, Emily Daniel, Alison Summer-Ramirez, Sara Shellhorn, Victoria Fauser, Kalene Goist, Audrey Perkins, Marissa Leeth, Somer Freeman, Kelly Dininger, Molli Cartwright, Josh Messersmith, Donnie Smith, Cecilin Pauley and Courtney Kieffer.
Kate Niederkohr directs "Sugar" with assistance from Wendy Shellhouse and Karen Kline and technicians Robert Parker and Lukas Frey. Musical director and accompanist David Arter and drummer Alex Dundore keep the music coming. Rita Hossler on costumes also deserves a mention, especially for Daphne's fringed dress.