A toe-tapping, brass-bright show directed by Peter Rowe, with a cast of 14 singing, dancing, playing in the on-stage band - even acting. Full-scale Broadway it's not, but it does make for a light-hearted and stylish romp; if only it had some really memorable, hum-as-you-leave-the-theatre tunes. But at least it does have some clever staging - and even cleverer performances.
The band perches in front of a typical dance-hall curtained proscenium, from which designer Dawn Allsopp drops the merest cartoon outlines to show us where a particular scene is set. All the action is played out down-stage, again with minimal furnishings but with subtle and kaleidoscopic costume details.
These serve to keep the girls in Sweet Sue (Esther Riddle)'s girl-band before us as sharply individualised people and not just background players. With this they are assisted by Francesca Jaynes's deft choreography, tailored to her cast's abilities rather than to West End aspirations. The foreground is occupied by Joe (Ian Conningham) and Jerry (Ben Fox) as the musicians on the run from the Mob who cross-dress to escape Kraig Thornber's Spats. (Thornber, incidentally, is given a post-tap-dancing death-scene to rival anything Donald Wolfit or Vincent Price might have strung out.)
Conningham has the force of a man who is going to get the girl (in the end), and Fox has the pathos and the strength of the man who can accept another man's loneliness, personified here in Johnson Willis's Osgood Fielding.
Which brings us to the title character; like it or not, Sugar Kane and Marilyn Monroe are now almost synonymous. So, what is left for Rosie Jenkins to do with the part? Sugar is naïve, a sort displaced Bridget Jones. She's sexy, and not quite sure if that's a blessing or a curse. She drinks too much and sleeps with too many goodbye-in-the-morning men. But she has that inexplicable show business aura - star quality. That's what keeps her audiences riveted, and saves her from justifiable dismissal. Jenkins gives us a vulnerable Sugar, daughter of an immigrant family and not sure how to balance what talents she has with the demands of her past. It's a valid interpretation from a fifty years on viewpoint, but it's not a sock-it-to-them show stopper.