‘Sugar Babies’ sweetened stage this spring

Jake Jakieski's character reacts to the discovery of the audience in one of his skits during the April 24 showing of Sugar Babies
Kyle Russell
Jake Jakieski’s character reacts to the discovery of the audience in one of his skits during the April 24 showing of Sugar Babies

The Roaring 20s took the stage as IVCC’s groundbreaking cast performed “Sugar Babies: The Big Bad Burlesque Musical!” The comedic musical was performed in our recently renovated Cultural Center as the first show introducing the spring semester.
Under the leadership of director Don Grant Zellmer and music director Norm Engstrom, the show was a complete transition from “Dames at Sea” that was performed last fall. Re-creating the setting and era of the 1920s was no problem for the talented and dedicated cast–the Nostalgia was very real. Beginning right from the opening scene of the show the soft and elegant music helped alter the setting for the audience from present day 2015 to the roaring 1920s with its jazzy flare.

Immediately after the song, which was paced as a perfect transition for the audience, the music and second scene burst into an exciting 20s dance number performed by the ‘Sugar Babies’ themselves. As the show progressed, the featured dancers, feathery and fringy costumes, cultural music, and the overall set of the stage all contributed to entrancing the minds of the audience by setting the bar for the Roaring 20s. Director and cast member, Don Grant Zellmer, exclaimed: “ The cast has embraced the opportunity to recreate this era right down to the dancing style.”

Even though the cast only had sixteen members that were mostly female, the musical numbers performed were blended very nicely between male and female vocal range and register. Because the musical was burlesque, it consisted of multiple comedic skits, so each cast member had the opportunity to express their many talents through a variety of accents and character types.
Returning stars Karen Lesman, Emily Hank, and Hillari Behrens were very impressive with their ability to transition character types in each scene. Zellmer and Alex Guerreo had most of the memorable and hilarious comedic lines as they took the stage in almost all of the small skits.

The audience had a great amount of feedback, as I heard laughter towards the end of many scenes.
Audience member Olivia Mueller said “Don Zellmer is probably one of the funniest actors I have ever seen, and I always love watching Emily Hank perform.”

Audience member Anna Jereb exclaimed, “It was really funny! I am glad I attended, Don Zellmer even sang me a love song!”
Throughout the show there were many topical works added into the script like comedic references towards Oglesby and Grand Bear Lodge Hotel, which allowed the audience to relate to the story.

However, because the comedy skits were originally all from the days of Burlesque in the Roaring 20s it seemed to somewhat disconnect the audience from the illusion of live theatre because most of the audience members that attended on Thursday, April 23 were college students from IVCC, and comedy, music, and cultural popularity were much different in the 1920s compared to the modernity in today’s society.

There is significance towards experiencing and learning about entertainment and style from iconic past times, but more recent releases may be more attractive for musical goers and the target audience. Despite, the minor disconnection, overall, it was a fun-filled and humorous night for many others and myself! Well done IVCC!