Some Like It Hot review
Some Like It Hot Review - Broadway musicalBilly Wilder's Some Like It Hot is about as perfect as a film gets, so it takes some serious maracas to try and tamper with it — not that it hasn't been tried before.
The 1972 musical Sugar has been knocking around for the past few decades but hasn't hit Broadway since its initial run, which garnered four Tony nominations. But with its theme of gender fluidity that snuck past the Hays code and unsuspecting audiences in 1959, Some Like It Hot feels ripe for a revisit.
This new production expands on that theme, diversifies the players, and shakes up the story so it still feels like Some Like It Hot, but the result is something that can stand and high-kick on its own. Boasting infectious music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman, a witty book by Matthew López and Amber Ruffin, and stellar direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw, Some Like It Hot is a booze-soaked, boisterous good time from start to finish.
The basic plot remains the same. Two jazz musicians, Joe and Jerry, witness a mob hit, they go on the run in drag, join an all-girl band, one of them falls in love with the saccharine Sugar Kane, the other gets hounded by love-sick millionaire Osgood Fielding III, hijinks ensue. The musical, however, moves the events from the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, to 1933, in the waning days of Prohibition.
This time around, Joe (Tony winner Christian Borle) is white but Jerry (J. Harrison Ghee) is Black, as is Sugar (Adrianna Hicks) and the bandleader Sweet Sue (NaTasha Yvette Williams). And instead of Florida in the Deep South, the band heads to Hollywood, where the perpetually heartbroken Sugar hopes not to find a millionaire but to become a movie star. These changes open up the story but don't hinder the narrative. This is a musical comedy after all and López and Ruffin keep things fast and loose, even when sandwiching social commentary between barbs.
The book has to do a lot of work in keeping the energy of the original in place while updating the world of 1933 for a 2023 audience, and it mostly succeeds. There are a few lines that didn't quite hit, but that's comedy, kids. You throw a bunch of jokes at the wall and see what schticks. But whereas the 1959 film plays coyly with gender, this production acknowledges that queerness existed alongside all those speakeasies and gin joints.
In the 1959 film, a lot of the funniest moments come from just how zealously Jack Lemmon throws himself into his Daphne persona. "Why would a guy wanna marry another guy?" Tony Curtis foghorns at Lemmon, who responds, "Security!"
When J. Harrison Ghee becomes Daphne, they become Daphne. During their big song, "You Coulda Knocked Me Over with a Feather," Jerry comes out as Daphne to Joe, and the show side-steps pure schmaltz for a rousing musical number. Though it wears its heart on its sequined sleeve, Some Like It Hot never lingers too long in sentiment, which is necessary to keep the action going and the gin flowing.
Marc Shaiman has one of the hardest working pianos in the biz, only an Oscar short of an EGOT (though seven nominations ain't nothing to sneeze at). While Hairspray may be his most celebrated work, Smash ain't nothing to sneeze at, either. The short-lived NBC musical dramedy was ambitious, sometimes to a fault, but can I speak to the joy that sprang in my heart when I heard the Megan Hilty showstopper "Let's Be Bad" repurposed by Kevin Del Aguila's Osgood? The music is as fun and witty as the book, with the big, splashy hooks needed for this big, splashy musical. Another important ingredient: hoofers. And the kids are fully utilizing all those years of ballet, jazz, and especially tap.
The cast is uniformly excellent. Borle does triple duty as womanizer Joe, sax player Josephine, and shy German "screenwriter" Kip, a performance requiring deft comedic timing, which he has in spades and spats. Ghee is luminous as Jerry/Daphne, standing who-knows-how-many-feet-tall in heels, kicking, tapping, and belting for the gods. Del Aguila was a true surprise, his rubbery performance as Osgood turning from comic relief to unexpected tenderness. And every time NaTasha Yvette Williams was on the stage as the acerbic Sweet Sue, she threatened to run away with the entire show.
Then there's Adrianna Hicks who is, in short, a star. Remember those? Originating the role of Sugar, in her very capable hands, Hicks makes Sugar the next great leading lady of the musical comedy stage. She carries the emotional heft of the show, as Marilyn Monroe did in the film, with her two numbers "At the Old Majestic Nickel Matinee" and "Ride Out the Storm," which also showcase both her vocal and dramatic range.
Some Like It Hot succeeds where Sugar didn't by not trying to recreate the film, but rather capturing its essence. Wilder's comedies were always a little dangerous, a little dark, often disguising hard, unspoken truths. But that edge is what makes the laughter that much sweeter.
Like the film, this new production knows it has to ultimately come back to the comedy. Even as a musical, the comedy comes first and everyone involved seems to understand that, making the entire show move like Jell-O on springs. A-
Last Update:November, 20th 2023