The quintessential, raise-the-roof Broadway musical comedy, Some Like It Hot bolsters a classic stage-to-screen adaptation with the insight of a post-modern lens.
A new musical from Hairspray composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman is bound to be attract interest, as is any new production from superlative director / choreographer Casey Nicholaw. Together, the appeal is irresistible and only increases with a book by Matthew Lopez (playwright of The Inheritance) and Amber Ruffin.
In trademark Nicholaw style, the entire show dances from start to finish. Tap dance is a major feature, with not one but two tap dance chase sequences, including the farce-like full company finale “Tip Tap Trouble.” Scott Pask’s lavish Art Deco design is utterly gorgeous.
Given its jazzy musical setting in Prohibition-era Chicago, iconic 1959 movie Some Like It Hot is ideal material for the musical stage, having already yielded the less-successful 1972 musical Sugar. Lopez and Ruffin stay very close to the machinations of the movie’s plot, sensitively refining the material to embrace diversity. Rather than using colourblind casting, the inclusion of people of colour is a logical part of the scenario and racism of the day is explored. The issue of consent is respected by changing Joe’s seduction of Sugar on the yacht. Most significantly, donning a dress awakens feelings in Jerry, who embraces the disguise of Daphne and develops genuine feelings for besotted eccentric millionaire Osgood Fielding III.
With the momentum of a roller coaster, energy never flags. Already an inherently funny story, the comedy level rises sky high with the pacy flow of snappy one-liners.
The enjoyment of Shaiman and Wittman’s score owes slightly more to skilful orchestrations than to melodies but lyrics from the pair are strong. Enamoured by movies, Sugar scores a lovely I wish song, “At the Old Majestic Nickel Matinee,” also soaring with 11 o’clock ballad “Ride Out the Storm.” The title song makes for a fabulous full company act one finale. Celebrating the blessings of self discovery, Daphne’s “You Coulda Knocked Me Over With a Feather” looks set to join “I Am What I Am” as a knockout queer anthem for the ages.
Each of the leading men are excellent in their own way. Celebrated star Christian Borle is absolutely hilarious as Joe/Josephine. J. Harrison Ghee is endearingly lovely as Jerry/Daphne, clearly and deservedly winning strong support from the audience.
Fresh from Six, Adrianna Hicks sparkles as Sugar. NaTasha Yvette Williams is a sassy delight as Sweet Sue. Kevin del Aguila gamely embraces the wacky lunacy of Osgood.
Leaving the audience on a breathless high, Some Like It Hot is a must-see for lovers of Broadway at its toe-tapping best.
Some Like It Hot plays at Shubert Theatre, New York.
Photos: Marc J. Franklin