The musical Sugar Babies was a very unique enterprise: it was a star-driven revue and tribute to the era of burlesque. Bawdy sketches, numbers and routines – both old and new – made up the evening which starred MGM stalwarts Ann Miller (Occupation: STAR!) and Mickey Rooney (in his Broadway debut). “The show was well received by critics and audiences alike; a genuine crowd pleaser whose sole purpose was pure entertainment; a sort of final farewell to the long dormant genre. There was some skepticism about the show from insiders and outsiders and it wasn’t expected to be a sell-out smash, but that’s exactly what it became.
The musical opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in 1979, and settled in for a three year run, clocking in at 1208 performances; the final success to play the house. (During the 80s, there was one flop after another until the Nederlanders sold the building to the Times Square Church in 1991). Miller and Rooney headlined the Broadway production for its entire run and later toured. He only missed one scheduled performance during his seven years performing the show. His understudy never went on; when he vacationed during the Broadway engagement, Joey Bishop, Rip Taylor and Eddie Bracken were brought in to cover. As for that one performance he missed on tour? The producers just canceled it. (The first national tour starring Carol Channing and Robert Morse was short lived).
Sugar Babies was nominated for 8 Tony Awards but went home empty-handed. Another little musical that year named Evita came to town, the event of that particular season. It didn’t matter, the show was a solid hit. Nationwide audiences were given the chance to see favorites Rooney and Miller on the Tony telecast when they performed the eleven o’clock “McHugh Medley” featuring various songs of noted songwriter Jimmy McHugh: