Reasons to see 'Some Like It Hot' on Broadway

The 13-time Tony Award-nominated musical based on the 1959 Billy Wilder film gives classic material — and the time-honored musical comedy — a fresh update.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Recreating the magic of a classic can be a challenge. So when it came time to adapt the landmark Billy Wilder film Some Like It Hot into a stage musical, bookwriters Amber Ruffin and Matthew Lopez and songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman didn't do that. Instead, they took the familiar characters and plot and used them to create something new with magic of its own.

The basic plot remains: Musicians Joe (Christian Borle in the Tony Curtis role) and Jerry (J. Harrison Ghee in the Jack Lemmon role) stow away with a traveling all-female band (fronted by Sugar Kane, the Marilyn Monroe role played by Adrianna Hicks) to escape the mob. In this version, though, their gender-flipped disguises — particularly Jerry's — actually help them find their truest selves.

New-fashioned ideas of gender meet old-fashioned musical comedy sounds, looks, and dance, making for an altogether timeless piece that stands on its own. It's no wonder Some Like It Hot was the most-nominated musical of 2023, earning 13 Tony Award nominations and four prizes. Here are some of the reasons why.

Songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are at their best.

I firmly hold that Hairspray and the Broadway-centric TV show Smash feature some of the best showtunes of the 21st century. On the one hand, that means I had no doubt the duo behind those would deliver once again with Some Like It Hot. On the other, that's a high bar.

But if there's one thing Shaiman and Wittman excel at, it's a period score. Just as they revived the '60s in Hairspray and the '50s in Smash, they conjure the '30s with a brassy, jazzy, swinging big-band score of Some Like It Hot. Highlights include the fiery title track; "Vamp!," which compares creating a persona to assembling a symphony; and “You Coulda Knocked Me Over With a Feather,” an exuberant self-discovery anthem in the vein of La Cage aux Folles's iconic "I Am What I Am."

Oh, and a bonus for us Smash fans: "Let's Be Bad" gets a revamp here, which regularly elicits gasps as the audience realizes where they know that melody from.

J. Harrison Ghee is a magnetic star.

The biggest, and best, change the Some Like It Hot musical made from the movie is with Jerry/Daphne's character. From the moment Jerry puts on the Daphne "disguise," it's clear that it's not a disguise — it's home. The character finally feels complete in their own skin, having found the part of their identity they didn't know they were missing.

This journey works so well because J. Harrison Ghee, a non-binary actor who is now one of history's first non-binary Tony winners, imbues the character with warmth, authenticity, and understanding. Ghee's star-making performance is a reminder of the greatness that comes from letting people of gender-expansive identities embody their own stories — and hopefully a sign to Some Like It Hot to always cast Jerry/Daphne as such.

"Tip Tap Trouble" is tip-tap-terrific.

When I first saw "Tip Tap Trouble," the show's penultimate musical number, I declared right then and there that Casey Nicholaw had the Best Choreography Tony Award on lock. The Tonys weren't for another seven months. I was right.

The scene is a double chase — policemen chase mobsters chase would-be victims around a luxury hotel — performed almost entirely with tap dancing and physical comedy. It's one of the most impressive bits of theatrical staging I've ever seen. Performers weave in and out of slamming doors and rolling laundry carts, no less than five quick changes take place, two mariachi guitar players and a line of saxophonists even join the tangle. It's three minutes of total chaos and silliness — and yet, synchronized to perfection.

Get tickets to Some Like It Hot on Broadway.

If you're thirsty for an old-fashioned, energetic mega-musical with new-fashioned stars and sensibilities, then Some Like It Hot satisfies on all counts. Whether you need only travel a few blocks or, like the characters, across the country to see it, it's worth it.

Photo credit: The cast of Some Like It Hot. (Photo by Marc J. Franklin)

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