Jul 28, 2014
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A Rare High School Performance Of 'Sugar' Takes Place This Weekend

“Sugar” showcases the talent of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School students in a show packed with songs, dance, costumes and slapstick comedy to spare.

A Rare High School Performance Of 'Sugar' Takes Place This Weekend A Rare High School Performance Of 'Sugar' Takes Place This Weekend A Rare High School Performance Of 'Sugar' Takes Place This Weekend A Rare High School Performance Of 'Sugar' Takes Place This Weekend A Rare High School Performance Of 'Sugar' Takes Place This Weekend

By Yevgeniy Trapeznikov

“I had to embrace my inner oblivious old joker, and put myself into the shoes of a millionaire who’s been through seven or eight marriages and is still happy as a clam,” said Kazz Felix-Hawver, a Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School student.

In the run-up to Christmas, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School (B-CC) has prepared a holiday gift for all fond of theatrical performance.

Starting this Friday, B-CC students will act in the show “Sugar,” a musical adaptation of the 1959 movie “Some Like It Hot.”

Adapted for the stage in 1972 by Tony Award-winning librettist Peter Stone, “Sugar” tells a funny story of two friends, Joe (a saxophone player) and Jerry (a bass player), who accidentally become witnesses to the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929 in Chicago, and are forced to run for their lives from the gangsters. In their escape, the pair joins an all-female band, named the Society Syncopators, that heads to Miami.

“There are no modifications. The show sticks very closely to the original film, except for the musical numbers. However, even the numbers try to maintain the feel of the time period,” said Adam Graham, who is directing the musical at B-CC.

According to the school’s promo release, this is the first time Graham is double-casting the role of female lead. Ashley Behnke and Gillian Han, B-CC high school students, will both play Sugar Cane, a frivolous female character who, in the original movie, was performed by Marilyn Monroe.

“I thought it would be twice as difficult but it was two times easier," Graham said in a statement. "Because they help each other and don’t compete."

Behnke and Han are best friends and have been taking vocal classes from two of the best teachers in Montgomery County, Rolando Sanz and Grace Gori.

The B-CC high school students have been rehearsing since September and now are in “crunch mode,” according Leo Kelly, a junior at B-CC, who is going to play one of the two male lead characters—a saxophone player Joe.

“My character is all over the place. He disguises as both a rather manly woman and a manipulative millionaire to get exactly what he wants … whether it's safety from a mob or the love of his life,”

Kelly said, describing how Joe first masqueraded as a woman to hide from the Chicago mob and later in the show was pretending to be a millionaire to woo Sugar Cane.

Kelly and his partner, Rees Powell, have one of the most challenging roles. Both are more than 6 feet tall, and will have to walk around on the stage in high heels and wearing women’s dresses.

“Our tech crew and costume departments spare no expense and work their butts off to get everything perfect. And getting dresses for two 6-foot-and-2-inch tall guys can't be easy,” Kelly said.

The show had 39 tech crew members to put things up for the performance. The school theatre has recently upgraded its lighting system. The revolving stage design received help by KayCee Tucker, a graduate of Montgomery Blair High School and who earned a degree in theater technology from New York University last May.

“Sugar” also will feature a 27-person live orchestra with upright bass and 35 people in the cast.

For student Kazz Felix-Hawver—who is playing an old millionaire who survived multiple marriages but never lost his passion for women—the musical will be his sixth performance at B-CC.

Felix-Hawver said he was cast as old men several times before and this experience gave him enough dexterity with the makeup routine. However, the biggest challenge for him has been embracing the true nature of his character.

“Sir Osgood Fielding [a millionaire who falls in love with the man-turned-woman bass player] is a creepy, dirty old man. But it’s not supposed to be a creepy, dirty character, he’s supposed to be hilariously oblivious,” said Felix-Hawver, explaining complexity of his role.

Amanda Silverstein, on the other hand, finds herself in a different situation when she explores a new terrain of playing a younger character.

“I have been frequently cast in the ‘mother’ role. This time, I got to play someone a little closer to my age. The most challenging aspect of this character was realizing it wasn't an old character,” said Silverstein, who plays Sweet Sue, leader of Society Syncopators.

For those itching for a show, “Sugar” will be one of the few theatrical performances before winter holiday season strikes. Most other performances will be in spring.

The show will take place at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School (4301 East-West Highway in Bethesda) and will feature talented high school performers, some with professional credits, and most with years of theater, voice and dance training and experience.

“Sugar” will be presented on three days, from Dec. 13 through Dec. 15. The first two performances will take place at 7:30 p.m., and the Sunday show will start at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $8 for senior citizens and students in kindergarten through grade 12, and $10 for the general public. All Montgomery County public school employees and children 5 and under will be admitted free-of charge.

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