Fresh Glory Productions at the New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich
Billy Wilder's classic movie of 1958 has inspired spin-offs galore, including several musicals, but none as fanciful, or half as much fun, as this light-hearted look at the afterlife.
We find ourselves in Limbo – the anteroom to Paradise – represented here by Jane Linz Roberts' versatile set, funeral parlor to sheltering palms, where the in-house entertainment is an all-singing, all-dancing Some Like It Hot Experience: a chance to rub shoulders with the stars of the film before heading off to eternal bliss. It's the trailer, the warm-up, the B movie.
So English Everyman Charlie [Patrick Bridgman], a life-long SLIH aficionado, is in seventh heaven as, timidly at first, he finds himself caught up in the madcap antics of Curtis, Lemmon and his boyhood idol Monroe as they see the Saint Valentine's Day shoot-out in Chicago and hurriedly head off south, in drag, needless to say.
The music – Neil MacDonald in charge – plays a key role. The actors are the band too, of course, virtuosic and versatile, and we get to hum along and tap our toes to old favourites like Clap Hands, Yes Sir, Chicago and, big finish, Stairway to the Stars and Marilyn's iconic I Wanna Be Loved By You [Boop-Boop-A-Doop].
La Monroe is memorably personated here by Sarah Applewood, pouting and preening in those iconic gowns, and, as Sugar Kane, playing ukulele, sax and clarinet in Sweet Sue's Society Syncopators. And singing rather better than the original – there's a beautiful version of Sugar Blues, backed by clarinet and trumpet.
Paul Matania and Daniel Lloyd make a great double act as Tony and Jack, the wit and the wisecracks coming thick and fast, and scrub up nicely as Josephine and Daphne, too. A poignant contrast with poor old Charlie, whose feminine persona needs more than a little fine tuning.
The principals get strong support, musically and dramatically, by Sophie Byrne's Billie and Andrew Venning's Diamond.
There's a subtler, sadder sub-plot here, to do with Charlie's old mum, diamonds and a familiar vanity case. After his “extra jazz on the side”, Charlie can't wait to go all the way to the happy ending, but thanks to Marilyn's intervention, it's not the one he might have been expecting …
A quirky, bitter-sweet entertainment – it's not often you can talk life and death with a guy with a pair of maracas tucked down his bathing dress – which succeeds largely thanks to those unforgettable songs and these six talented actor-musicians.this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews