Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, July, 2003
WOW! Wowie-wow-wow! Whatta show! What a load of silly fun! Go! Buy tickets NOW, I tell you!
There is no plot to Sugar Babies, no moral, no uplifting moments. Just songs and dance, laughs and fun, all for you. That’s what it says on the cover of the Mac-Haydn’s 2003 program book, and that’s what you get for the price of admission. Beautiful girls in skimpy outfits. Baggy-pants clowns doing pratfalls. Tap dancers tap-tap-tapping the night away. Jokes that are so old and bad and bawdy that you laugh at yourself for laughing at them (that Elk’s ball joke had me in stitches – go figure!) Everything is energetically performed and perfectly paced.
Perfect. Perfect summer theatre. Kudos to director John Saunders and the whole company!
After two near misses, the young and talented gang at the Mac-Haydn nails this one on the head. The burlesque format gives several members of the company a chance to really shine and show off some specialty bits you never knew they had up their sleeves. I mean, in a straight book musical it is difficult to find an appropriate moment for a fan dance, a juggler, or a gentleman who can dance en pointe. If you are doing, say, The Sound of Music, it is hard to find an excuse for a girl to sing a number wearing a gorilla suit. But here anything goes, and you will discover, to your delight, that there is very little this ensemble can’t do.
I nominate Jamie Grayson as the funniest person on the stage. No, wait, make that Jim Kidd. Hold it, no, it’s Tiffany Thornton. Then again, maybe it’s… Ah well, you go and decide for yourself.
And then there is the contest for the best singer – Karla Shook? Marcia Kunkel? Chad Heuschober? Kristen Clark? David Bondrow?
In the dancing category? Well, all glory laud and honor go to the choreographer who also stands out on the stage (Oooo, that fan dance!!) the lovely and talented Kelly Shook. But I didn’t catch any missteps among the attractive corps of male and female dancers. Lisa Karlin gets to show off her ballet skills in Immigration Rose and a specialty dance number where she is joined by Katie Cheek and Nate Suggs, all of whom are completely overshadowed by the hilarious performance of Rusty Curcio.
It is always funny to see a man in a pink tutu and tights, but this is not just a number in which a fellow leaps about in awkward mimicry of the ladies. I had never seen a man en pointe before, and its not something that just anyone can do. After just a few moments you realize that Curcio is performing very difficult maneuvers, the kind which take tremendous strength, agility, and years of training. And keep an eye on Suggs too. Like any well-trained partner, he makes what Curcio and the ladies do look easy, but performing those lifts and catches is no easy feat. And I think it takes more guts for a man to appear in public in white tights than in a pink tutu.
And who knew that Andrew Livingston could juggle? Suddenly a performer who had appeared to be a slightly bumbling newcomer to the chorus in previous shows was revealed as a talented clown.
I had only seen Jim Kidd in straight leading man roles before. He is one funny guy! And I am used to seeing David Bondrow make a fool of himself to great effect. How nice to see him looking handsome in a tux partnering the beautiful Marcia Kunkel in an elegant nightclub style song and dance number. The happy surprises just keep coming in this show.
Jimm Halliday and the costume department at the Mac have completely outdone themselves with piles and piles and piles of colorful, beautiful outfits that fit and flatter the various sizes and shapes of the Mac-Haydn company. By the time you get to the star-spangled finale you are ready to leap to your feet and cry – not author, author – but “Designer! Cutters! Drapers! Seamtresses! Dressers!” Wow! What a job keeping all those performers looking that good that fast and making it look that easy!
I even got a big kick out of Clifford Merritt and Aaron Montgomery’s over-the-top miniature golden proscenium arch dripping with bunches of grapes. Sets usually amount to very little at the Mac-Haydn because of the quirky design of the performance space, but here was a show where even the set designers got a moment of glory.
Have I gushed enough? But seriously, theatre is such a collaborative art that it is always a miracle to be celebrated when every person, every prop, every tiny little aspect of a big, complex high-flying spectacle like this comes together perfectly. So I shall shout it from the rooftops and you shall go and buy tickets. It’s the least we can do when the kids at the Mac are doing so much to entertain us.
Sugar Babies runs through July 13 at the Mac-Haydn Theatre on Rt. 203 in Chatham, NY. The show runs two hours and thirty-five minutes with one intermission. The humor is broad and bawdy, so if that’s something you don’t want your kids exposed to, be warned. Otherwise, this show is such fun that everyone in the family will have a great time. Call the box office at 518-392-9292 for tickets and information.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 2003