Author: Richard Hurford
Director: Karen Simpson
Musical Director: Neil MacDonald
Reviewer: Bill Avenell
No doubt most of the audience at the Yvonne Arnaud last night would be familiar with the famous 1959 Billy Wilder film Some Like It Hot. But even with only a passing knowledge of the film they would have seen enough snippets over the years to know the basic plot of two refugees from the Mob, played by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis with much wise-cracking, escaping to Florida by impersonating ‘Josephine’ and ‘Daphne’ in an all-girl band whose lead singer is ‘Sugar Kane’, arguably Marilyn Monroe’s most famous rôle. And indeed there is no need to worry about being informed or not about the Hollywood blockbuster. After an alarming first five minutes, during which the speed of speech and the American accents made it very difficult to follow, the disappointingly small but enthusiastic audience became engrossed in Paul Hurford’s clever use of the original plot as a vehicle to explore the after-life, in particular that of the recently deceased Charlie, thrown into a limbo in which he is transported by ‘Head Office’ back to the happiest time in his life. Why this takes place in the company of the three dead super stars gradually becomes clear and along with many short renditions of the old jazz classics of the ‘twenties’ makes for a spirited evening with an enjoyable twist.
Hurford certainly captures the spirit of the movie with a combination of wit and familiar catch phrases and the whole thing is sent hummingly on its way (and many were humming by the end, if not singing along to the final number as perhaps larger audiences might have been) by Karen Simpson’s adept direction. Jane Linz Roberts’ design manages to create a sufficiently ‘afterlifey’ feel to the film sets and this is further improved by Mark Dymock’s atmospheric use of light and Beccy Graham’s stagey costumes. But above all, Neil MacDougall’s arrangement of the well-known numbers, played largely by a musically talented cast, makes it a night to enjoy.
But this is not a musical but a play with lots of music in it and the cast gives strong acting performances as well as playing the instruments. Daniel Lloyd as Jack Lemmon and Paul Matania as Tony Curtis are just enough like the originals but steer clear of being impressionists. Patrick Bridgman plays Charlie with a lovely blend of bemused ordinariness and sudden flashes of extroversion. Sarah Applewood steals the show, and at times the audience’s hearts, with a wonderful interpretation of Marilyn Monroe, bringing out the talent of the lady but also the pathos of a troubled soul.
Whether you knew anything about the original film or not this is a thoroughly enjoyable show in which the audience is gradually and subtly drawn into the situation in which the characters find themselves so that the whole thing becomes almost believable.
Some Like It Hotter runs at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford until Saturday 27th July.