First-time Tony nominees in ‘Some Like It Hot’ celebrate the milestone
Some Like It Hot led to first-time nominations for cast members J. Harrison Ghee, NaTasha Yvette Williams, and Kevin Del Aguila.
The new musical Some Like It Hot has garnered 13 Tony Award nominations — the most this season — for its swinging score, hilarious book, and brilliant cast. The nods include Best New Musical and four first-time nominations for co-writer Amber Ruffin and cast members J. Harrison Ghee, NaTasha Yvette Williams, and Kevin Del Aguila.
Inspired by the 1959 Marilyn Monroe-led film of the same name, the musical features a book by Matthew López and Ruffin, and a score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The musical sees two musicians, Jerry and Joe, escape the mob by disguising themselves as women and joining a traveling all-female swing band, where they learn a lot about their own truths and identities. Some Like It Hot incorporates everything you’d expect in a Broadway mega-musical: ensemble numbers, plenty of tap dancing, and marvelous set pieces.
The stage adaptation is more inclusive and openly celebratory of LGBTQ themes than its predecessor, which was groundbreaking at the time but limited in what the story could and couldn’t include due to censorship in the film industry. Below, the three nominated cast members shared their journey with the heartwarming show and how it feels to receive recognition for their performances.
Creating a safe space
J. Harrison Ghee, who previously played Lola in Kinky Boots, another show celebrated for its inclusivity, touched on the heartfelt interactions with Some Like It Hot audiences.
“[I’ve had] moments at the stage door with a parent of a trans kid who's like, 'Thank you for showing my child that their existence matters,'” said Ghee. “There's a part of them living on stage.”
Williams, who plays Sweet Sue, the leader of the all-female swing band, shared how the show creates a sense of community. She hopes audiences see the show and realize they don’t have to be isolated. Instead, she wants them to think, “I have to reach out and embrace others and have others embrace me so that we can move forward.”
In addition to creating a safe space for audience members to feel accepted for who they truly are, Some Like It Hot gives people a joyous respite from difficulties in their everyday lives. “People go to theatre to escape, feel, and see a spectacle," said Ghee. “They want to see something beyond normalcy sometimes. We're giving them that, but in such a beautiful way that’s grounded in truth.”
Living your truth
Both the movie and the musical explore the theme of identity. By the end of the story, all the characters transform in some way, having learned something crucial about themselves. In developing these characters, each of the nominated performers brought a piece of themselves to their roles.
“The whole show is about identity, right?” says Del Aguila. “You have this idea of who you are inside, but the world tells you that you must be something else. You have to figure out how to live your truth in this world that may not see that.”
Kevin Del Aguila plays Osgood, a millionaire infatuated with Daphne, and brings part of himself to the role. While recording a demo for the musical, Matthew López said he wanted to make Osgood half-Mexican, a departure from the film portrayal. “Everyone in the show could have this dual nature that they're trying to figure out,” said Del Aguila, who is half-Peruvian.
For her part, Williams found it most special to celebrate strong maternal figures through her character Sweet Sue, who builds her band from the ground up and watches over its members as if they were her daughters. For her portrayal, Williams drew upon inspiration from strong women in her own life, such as her aunt and mother.
“What an honor to mirror some of the women in my life who pushed me and said, ‘We don't have to take that; we can go do our own thing,’” she said. “I knew who Sue was. So it was an honor to be able to just slice off people in my life and make them come to life.”
For Ghee, taking on this role was important for the message they could send to other gender-expansive people. “[This role] met me where I am in my life of being able to, as I say, free myself to see myself,” said Ghee. “To allow life and circumstances to expand me beyond my own labels, limits, and boundaries.”
They made history this year as one of the first non-binary actors to receive a Tony nomination, alongside Shucked's Alex Newell.
“It is not something I take lightly, especially in this climate of legislation against queer and trans and nonbinary beings,” Ghee said of their historic Tony nomination. “It is something I care for with pride. I live with intention and purpose and love. And for that to be honored in this work is truly incredible.”
Welcome back to Broadway
Some Like It Hot feels pertenint to this moment in history. Broadway reopened in September 2021, but it has taken some time for the world of live theatre to fully transition back to what it was before the pandemic.
“This show has been everything that I think anybody needs coming out of the pandemic,” said Williams. “We have the opportunity to come together to laugh, to be with people in the space that says there's room for you here and you belong here. There’s no better place to be.”
“Broadway is back in such a bold, brassy way, and we're doing that at the Shubert,” added Ghee. “It's wonderful to feel audiences every night receive that [message] and also be taken places they didn't expect in our journey. It's beautiful.”
Echoing his castmates, Del Aguila said it’s hard not to feel alive while performing. “You're surrounded by all these people tap dancing in this giant band just swinging these songs,” he said. “The joy, the vibrancy, the life has all come back in this incredibly big, glorious musical.”
Photo credit: Some Like It Hot on Broadway. (Photos by Marc J. Franklin and Matthew Murphy)
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