IT SEEMS as if "Sugar Babies," has been touring since the birth of burlesque itself (or the birth of Mickey Rooney, for that matter). Actually, it opened on Broadway five years ago, and though it's kind of creaky, it's still cheeky in its latest go-round at the Warner Theater. Full of kicklines and kicks in the keister, and featuring original stars Rooney and Ann Miller, the burlesque musical begs for words like "laffs" and "yocks" and "gals" and "gams" to be brought out of mothballs.
Speaking of mothballs, most of the evening's jokes still reek of them, but still fetch a chuckle, or at least a groan. (Sample: "he dance of the virgins is performed by the ladies of the chorus, strictly from memory").
Rooney and Miller front a cast of veteran comics (including vaudeville vets Phil Ford and Micky Deems) and a herd of helium-voiced chorines skilled at squeaky-toy squeals, blank expressions and 180-degree kicks. On their umpteenth opening night, this bunch knocked more than a few skeptics and sourpusses off their highbrow horses.
Miller, in what looks like mortuary makeup, is still in fine voice on the Jimmy McHugh chestnuts, and takes every opportunity to flash her wheels. And Rooney does his Hollywood babble-on routine, interrupting everything with calculated ad-libs and flubs without a whit of spontaneity. But no matter how many silly wigs he dons or how many lines he steps on, he remains somehow endearing and enduring. Featured singer Julie Miller (billed as the "1983 Atlantic City Entertainer of the Year") is, as the cliche goes, lovely and talented, and a good sport-at one point she wears a costume made of live pigeons.
They said it couldn't be done, but someone manages to steal the show from Rooney, the Ham of Hams (Miller runs a close second). Young Frank Olivier creates a show within a show, and injects some fresh lood into the formaldehyde, with the funniest juggling/unicycle act since the Flying Karamazov Brothers-and there's only one of him. Joe Brown SUGAR BABIES -- Book by Ralph G. Allen, music by Jimmy McHugh. At the Warner Theater through November 18.