The “Some Like It Hot” you may remember with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe isn’t the same ol’ same ol’ that’s currently on Broadway.
The new edition, in fact, plays with many of the film’s hallmarks and sets its story to a jazzy beat. Mark Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the two behind “Hairspray” and many of the songs from TV’s “Smash,” borrow moments from other shows (“Guys and Dolls” included) that give this more than a little nudge. Director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw pushes it to the edge and never looks back.
“Some Like It Hot” roars like the train two musicians board to escape hit men who are trying to end their careers. In order to hide out, Jerry (J. Harrison Ghee) and Joe (Christian Borle) don dresses and become part of an all-girl band headed to California. The ruse works until both find potential loves. Joe falls for Sugar (Adrianna Hicks), the band’s singer; Jerry becomes attracted to the advances from a millionaire who owns the hotel they’re headlining. Osgood Fielding III (Kevin Del Auguila, who’s utterly charming) falls for Jerry’s Daphne and stirs new feelings. While in Mexico, Jerry realizes he may have misjudged himself.
Thanks to the show’s smart book (by Amber Ruffin and Matthew Lopez), the musical is able to address contemporary issues at a Jazz Age pace. It’s a remarkable feat that plays better than the film’s original ending.
“SLIH” gets a big push, too, from NaTasha Yvette Williams as the band leader. She lands many of the story’s best lines and isn’t afraid to point out its stretchmarks.
Armed with four doors and a dancing ensemble that seemingly never stops, Nicholaw offers up a chase sequence that proves everyone is earning their keep. The orchestra (positioned overhead) makes those nightclub moments seem like we got the best seat in the house.
Borle plays Josephine, his female guise, for big laughs and has fun romancing Sugar aboard a yacht. His version, however, doesn’t embrace a Cary Grant accent or demeanor. He’s an average Joe falling for Sugar even though Prohibition-era critics may frown on an interracial relationship. Again, the writers manage to make this as much about today as they do America 100 years ago.
Borle is as solid as Broadway performers get, Del Auguila and Williams land every laugh they’re given. But Ghee is the one who elevates this by finding a Daphne who seems more fully felt than any other character in the show. It’s one of the best performances of the year.
Because “Some Like It Hot” plays well for numerous audiences, it’s likely to be big when it hits the road (and those towns it namechecks on tour). Its sets are massive Art Deco monuments; its costumes could fill a high-end department store. Hot? Oh yeah.