OAKLAND -- Bishop O'Dowd High School serves up a sweet confection of a show with its upcoming production of the musical "Sugar," running Friday through May 12.

Based on Billy Wilder's popular 1959 movie "Some Like It Hot," the musical farce follows two unemployed musicians who witness a murder. In an effort to escape the Chicago gangsters responsible, the two disguise themselves as women and join an all-girl band.

"It's a good script with an interesting jazzy score," said drama teacher William McNeill. "Although it's not the kind of music most of the students listen to, they are having a lot of fun with it. I think they especially like the clothes they have to wear -- double breasted suits, tuxedos for the guys and flapper outfits for the girls. The boys also wear suspenders, and most of them, had never seen a suspender before."

Although written in the 1970s, the action is set in the late 1920s and features music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Bob Merrill.

"It's really one of the last old-fashioned musicals before Stephen Sondheim completely changed the way musicals were written," McNeill said. "It's very funny and family-friendly."

Bringing "Sugar" to the stage required lots of dedication and teamwork starting with the three drama teachers at O'Dowd. Dennis Kohles, who has been at the high school since 1985, is the director, designer and choreographer while McNeill and Trina Oliver help with acting coaching, supplemental design, and, basically, whatever needs to be done.


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One of the biggest challenges for the 37 cast members has been the long rehearsal process. Since January, the students have juggled daily rehearsals, schoolwork, family and extra-curricular activities.

"It takes a lot of stamina and discipline," McNeill added.

What also took a bit of stamina for the two male leads (senior Mitchell Gomes as Joe/Josephine and sophomore Evan Ceremony as Jerry/Daphne) involved wearing dresses and learning to walk in high heels.

"Surprisingly, they never seem too uncomfortable at rehearsals, and if they have trouble wearing the heels, well that just adds more comedy to the show," McNeill said. "After all, they're playing guys disguised as women to avoid being killed. They shouldn't be able to walk perfectly in heels."

Not only does Gomes have to disguise himself as Josephine, he also turns himself into a millionaire in order to woe the band's lead singer Sugar, who has her heart set on marrying a man with loads of cash. Senior Aria Charles plays the role made famous by Marilyn Monroe, but, according to McNeill, she has found her own unique interpretation of the iconic character.

FYI
"Sugar" plays April 26, 27, May 3, 4, 10, and 11 at 8 p.m. and May 5 and 12 at 2 p.m. at Bishop O'Dowd High School, 9500 Stearns Ave., in Oakland. For tickets, call 510-553-8600 or go to www.bishopodowd.org/activities/drama.