Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jule Styne and Bob Merrill's SUGAR, A Rose By Any Other Name Would Still Smell As Sweet

It all started in 1935, when Richard Pottier made the French film Fanfare D'Amour. It has a strickingly similar story, two out of work musicians can't get work because of the popularity of all girl bands. What is there to do, but pretend to be women. A gimmick? Maybe! But it's been a popular one ever since.

Repeated in the 1951 German film Fanfare Der Liebe, the same idea would continue to include out of work musicians dressing as women and falling in love with their fellow band mates. Another plot device, a man falling in love with one of the lads in drag, was also introduced in these original films.

It wasn't until 1959, that Billy Wilder would introduce the "on the lam" element with the men disguising themselves in drag, not for work, but to escape the mob. It also introduced the central female protaganist Sugar Kane, famously portrayed by Marilyn Monroe.

Some years later the "Abominable Showman," David Merrick, would decide to musicalize Some Like it Hot. The only problem? Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond weren't interested. Merrick went back to the German film Fanfare Der Liebe, along with his Hello Dolly creative team, Jerry Herman, Michael Stewart, and Gower Champion.

When Merrick was finally able to secure the rights to Wilder's film, Herman & Stewart were more interested in continuing their own version based on Liebe. Merrick turned to Jule Styne, Bob Merrill and Peter Stone to reintroduce the Some Like it Hot elements. As familiar as the name of the movie was, they also decided to change the title (alternatively "Doin' it for Sugar" and finally just "Sugar") to entice Ann-Margret into starring. She declined, but the name stayed.

And there it would stay until 1993 when Tommy Steele brought it to London for the first time, with Some Like it Hot back in the title.

That wouldn't be the end of Fanfare, or Some Like it Hot.  In 2004, Nia Vardalos (famous for My Big Fat Greek Wedding) wanted to put her own spin on the tail with Connie and Carla.  The mobsters stayed, the men in drag went.  This time it was two ladies (Vardalos and Tony and Academy Award nominee Toni Collette) escape from the mob by pretending to be men.. pretending to be women.

Forty years after Sugar first appeared on Broadway, 42nd Street Moon has brought her back to San Francisco.  Regardless of the name, the show is still sweet as Sugar.

Now playing through April 22, 2012 at the Eureka Theatre, for tickets call (415) 255-8207 or click here.