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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
Curtis still Hot on stage
Some Like It Hot
Curtis (left) and Monroe starred in the original film

How do you improve on perfection?

Billy Wilder's 1959 film Some Like it Hot was recently voted the number one comedy of all time by the American Film Institute.

And so it comes as no surprise that director Dan Siretta faced a considerable task in trying to do justice to the material's legendary reputation with his stage production.

It is to Biretta's credit that he almost pulls it off with the show that opens this week in San Francisco, US.

Thanks to imaginative stage settings, a solid performance from his youthful cast and a stellar performance from his 77-year-old star, Tony Curtis.

Tony Curtis
Curtis still enjoys acting
Fans of the original movie will remember Curtis in his role of Joe cum Josephine, the saxophonist in drag who loses his heart to Sugar Cane (played so unforgettably in Wilder's classic by Marilyn Monroe).

This time round Curtis takes on the role of Osgood Fielding III - an amiable old millionaire who falls in love with Joe's bass-playing partner, Jerry, when he's passing himself off as a woman called Daphne.

Although he's only on stage for around 20 minutes (in a show which lasts over two hours) Curtis retains just enough craft and self-deprecation to turn in a performance which is almost as memorable to that which won him so many fans back in the 50's.

He admits his part might not add up to much in terms of minutes, but it packs a punch.

Legend

"I'm not doing this for heavy lifting," he says. "I'm doing this for fun.

"I bring as much drive to that 18-20minutes as I would to an hour and a half."

And there's no doubting that when he does appear near the end of the first half, he does so with aplomb and to a rousing welcome from many audience members, who have come to see a real-life legend of the silver screen.

For anyone who has never seen the film, it tells the story of two Chicago musicians, Joe and Jerry, who witness the St Valentine's Day Massacre and are forced to flee for their lives.

Bad guy

They disguise themselves as Josephine and Daphne, the homeliest members of an all-girl jazz band heading to Miami.

The Some Like It Hot musical remains fairly true to the beautifully written Wilder classic with plenty of wisecracks and slapstick comedy performed with great timing by Joe (Arthur Hanket) and Jerry (Timothy Gulan).

The tap dancing is exhilarating with some big numbers led by "bad guy" Spats (William Ryall) dressed in nifty pin stripe suits and donning a fedora.

Sugar (Jodi Carmeli) holds her own in breathing new life into the part made famous by Marilyn Monroe.

Charm

It is hard though to watch Siretta's musical without having the celluloid version playing somewhere in the back of your head.

And it is difficult not to compare and contrast the performances you remember from the screen with that on stage.

Having Curtis in front of you snags at those memories but he manages to transport you to the present with his laid-back charm.

Siretta has even turned this Hollywood idol into a real showman and has him tap dancing and singing.

Well half-singing really, but like so many things he has done in his acting life, he does it with style.

And when the audience gives Curtis a standing ovation at the end of it all, you can see how much he loves being in front of a crowd doing what he does best.

Some Like it Hot is showing at the Golden Gate theatre in San Francisco until 3 November 2002

See also:

09 Oct 00 | Entertainment
14 Jan 00 | Entertainment
30 Apr 02 | Entertainment
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