’70s Chicago Comes to Cleveland in ‘Sugar: The Stage Play’ | Arts & Culture


Gloria Shea sells daytime insurance, but she’s been a fan of storytelling since she was a kid in Cleveland. She will produce her very first screenplay, “Sucre: the playat the John P. Murphy Foundation Theater at Cuyahoga Community College on Sept. 17.

The play should not be confused with the 1970s Broadway production “Sugar”. This short-lived musical was based on the movie “Some Like It Hot”. ‘Sugar: The Stage Play’ Owes Classic Blaxploitation Movies Like ‘Across 110’e Street” and “Black Caesar”.

“It’s the story of a young man who gets caught up in the game,” she said. “He grows up with a young man named Levi, who is Jewish. They grow up in the same urban neighborhood. Then they grow up to be like blood brothers, and Levi brings him into the game. But Sugar comes along, and Sugar is a born leader.

From there, it’s a story of their success and where Sugar sees his life headed.

“I heard, I can’t even tell you how many times, that this should be filmed,” she said. “Our director, by the way, who’s also a local Clevelander, and he’s very well known for his movies [and] he had actually done a lot of movies here, his name is Joseph Billups. And the next thing he would like to do is put the play on film.

Angela Thomas (left) and Donna McCain in rehearsal. [Kabir Bhatia / Ideastream Public Media]

Shea was inspired to create characters while growing up in Cleveland in the 1970s, listening to radio shows like “CBS Radio Mystery Theater”.

“It was my first introduction to the characters and I was in love with it,” she said. “It was very exciting for me, and it just took me to another world…I would just be caught up in it.”

The play features original music and many of the actors are Cleveland-based singers such as Charles Reed (Sugar) and Noire Whitehead (Lola). Still, with her North Shore roots, some may wonder why she staged the play in Chicago.

“I really don’t have a good answer to that,” she said. “It just flowed into the script. I love Chicago as well as my own hometown. But we’re like a miniature Chicago here. There are a lot of similarities.

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