Meet the cast of 'Some Like It Hot' on Broadway
The musical's stars talk about refreshing a classic comedy film for today's audiences.
The weather is getting cold, but the Shubert Theatre is getting hot. Performances are underway for the new musical comedy Some Like It Hot, based on the classic Billy Wilder film. Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe carved a place in film history with the story of Joe and Jerry, two jazz musicians escaping the mob by disguising themselves as members of an all-female swing band.
A movie as iconic as that one requires an equally iconic team of creators and actors to bring it to life on stage. Some Like It Hot has just that: director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw, known for spectacular musical comedies like The Book of Mormon; Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the composer/lyricists behind Hairspray; comedian Amber Ruffin and playwright Matthew Lopez, who adapted the script; and a cast led by Broadway vets Christian Borle, J. Harrison Ghee, and Adrianna Hicks.
Ahead of the show's December 11 opening, Some Like It Hot cast shares what the film's fans, and those unfamiliar with it, can expect from the stage adaptation, their fresh interpretations of the characters, and more.
Christian Borle, an in-demand comedy actor, last entertained Off-Broadway audiences as the zany, sadistic dentist Orin in Little Shop of Horrors. Now, he brings his talents to Joe, the Some Like It Hot role originally played by Tony Curtis.
What he brings to a classic character: I have faces number 1 through 17. Casey just tells me which one he wants.
[Ghee] has a different comic sensibilities. He's drier than I am, and I'm Mr. Elastic. We're a good pair in that way. So when you get sick of me, you can just pay attention to him, and everyone gets to relax.
How the musical compares to the movie: The heart is still there. When you go back and you see the movie, you're reminded that they were really ahead of their time, and there's a real sweetness to it. That's in the DNA of the story. It's just a fantastic sense of humor about it and doesn't take itself too seriously, and the antics that these guys get up to are timeless and classic.
Musician he'd stow away with: Prince and the Revolution
J. Harrison Ghee
J. Harrison Ghee plays Jerry, the role originated by Jack Lemmon on screen, in the Some Like It Hot musical. Ghee's nonbinary identity inspires their performance, which honors the beloved character but makes Jerry fresh and contemporary.
What they bring to a classic character: I try my best to just bring my truth and my authenticity. It's been amazing how things I've said in conversation, out of rehearsal, have ended up in the show. That kind of collaboration... it's wonderful.
How the musical compares to the movie: We've honored the MGM movie for what it is but really brought these characters to life through today's lens, honoring the authenticity and the truth we live and are walking in actively today. These characters are ahead of the time that it's set [in], whether they have the language for it or not.
The moments Jerry and Osgood have together, and the fun that they are as a couple, is still honored. Kevin Del Aguila is just delicious. I love falling in love with him every day.
Musician they'd stow away with: Panic! At the Disco
Fresh off a hit run in Six on Broadway, where she originated the role of Catherine of Aragon, Adrianna Hicks is now putting her own spin on another iconic woman from history. She plays Sugar, the role Marilyn Monroe made famous in 1959.
What she brings to a classic character: It's lovely to have [Monroe] as a blueprint for shoes I'm about to step into. It is also a little like, "Oh my God, are they expecting Marilyn Monroe?" But what I love about [Nicholaw] is how he was like, "We want you. We're not trying to put on a Marilyn; we're not trying to do that. We want Adrianna Hicks."
[Sugar] is a sensual woman, grounded in herself, knowing who she is. Coming from a show that taught me about the queen that I am, and stepping into this role, it's nice to have that in my life and knowing who I am more so than ever before.
How the musical compares to the movie: This is a story about liberation. This is a story about someone stepping into their authenticity of who they are, and every single character goes through that. That's nice in creating that narrative for today, because everyone is crying out for, "I'm going to show you who I am." That is literally what the show is doing.
Expect to laugh. Expect to go on a fun, lighthearted journey that has different points of piercing the heart. These are the similarities from the movie to the stage. But it's nice that we're doing a different twist on it as well, with different music, having [people] of different ethnicities playing these other roles that were formerly for someone else.
Musician she'd stow away with: TLC
Natasha Yvette Williams
Playing Sweet Sue, the leader of the traveling band Joe and Jerry stow away with, is a treat for Natasha Yvette Williams. Not only does she "love being a woman in charge" on stage, but the role also shaped her approach to motherhood offstage.
What she brings to a classic character: In the musical, Sweet Sue is hard — "Don't do this, don't do that" — but she's also very loving and very inclusive and understanding and she's taking charge.
I love making decisions and also being worried about the chicks I have under my wing, and making decisions to help better them. It teaches me how to not only run this band, but run my household, when I'm thinking about my kids. It's an opportunity for me to take on an iconic role with a twist and [focus] on the human sides of her.
How the musical compares to the movie: We're set in the 30s, and we are an interracial band traveling the country during Prohibition and during the Great Depression. There are little moments we run into where we're like, "Could that happen? Did that happen?"
It's also been adapted because it is a diverse cast. It is an inclusive message. It's being adapted to say there's space for everybody, and whoever you are, you're welcome here... There's a line that says, "There's something on the menu for everyone." And I say, I hope you like it hot. But however you like it, you can find it here.
The movie didn't necessarily include everybody, but this show does.
Musician she'd stow away with: Earth, Wind & Fire
Kevin Del Aguila
Kevin Del Aguila "got contacted out of the blue" by Marc Shaiman, who he didn't know, to record a demo song for Some Like It Hot. The rest was history. Del Aguila plays Osgood, who develops a crush on Jerry in disguise — but maybe not just in disguise.
What he brings to a classic character: I've always just tried to use my memory of the character more than actually going back and looking at the movie and trying to emulate anything. My memory of the character may be a little different than the actual way it's done in the movie, but somehow it's worked out and they've kept me along.
How the musical compares to the movie: Even though it's an older property, it speaks to our age now as far as identity. People will be pleasantly surprised [about] the way that it's portrayed because it does have all the sensibility of the movie: all the laughter, all the joy, all the humor, all the fun, but also the heart. The ideas behind it are modern — they were back then and they are in this version as well.
Musician he'd stow away with: Sting
Mark Lotito kicks Some Like It Hot into high gear as Spats, the mobster whose crime sends Joe and Jerry on the run. Lotito grew up with the original film, and the musical adaptation marks his 11th Broadway appearance.
What he brings to a classic character: As one of the more mature members of the company, I know the movie from my childhood, and I was a big fan of the actors in it, including George Raft, who played my part. Every story needs a bad guy, and that's where yours truly comes in.
How the musical compares to the movie: You will absolutely recognize the architecture of the story if you know the movie really well, but you don't need to. You can come here and just watch it on its own because it is a full meal from beginning to end.
It's a show where there's something missing in a lot of the lives of the main characters. If you go along with them, they discover something, and the only way to do that is for them to be really honest with themselves.
Musician he'd stow away with: Red Hot Chili Peppers
As "a fan of pretty much everything Billy Wilder has touched," Adam Heller is the perfect fit for Some Like It Hot. He plays Detective Mulligan, the role originally played by Pat O'Brien on screen.
How the musical compares to the movie: It's a terribly funny show and a great musical comedy in the old tradition. The spirit of the screwball comedy seems alive and well here at the Shubert. That was a great thing about the movie and it's a great thing about our show. It's a Casey Nicholaw show — he's a master storyteller, and he juggles so many balls at one time. The dances are fantastic, but his storytelling is so clear and concise.
Musician he'd stow away with: The Beatles
Interviews have been condensed and edited for length and clarity.
Top image credit: Natasha Yvette Williams, Casey Nicholaw, Kevin Del Aguila, Adam Heller, J. Harrison Ghee, Adrianna Hicks, Christian Borle, Mark Lotito, Marc Shaiman, and Scott Wittman. (All photos by Michaelah Reynolds)
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