Sunday, February 12, 2023

Some Like It Hot- A Rollicking Good Time

Reviewed by Judd Hollander

The classic 1959 film "Some Like It Hot" gets the Broadway treatment and comes out running on pretty much all cylinders. Thanks in no small part to an excellent score, some very strong directorial efforts, an absolutely wonderful cast, and a tour-de-force performance by J. Harrison Ghee.

Things start off in 1933 Chicago during the waning days of Prohibition. Joe (Christian Borle) and Jerry (Ghee), close friends since childhood, are two out of work musicians/tap dancers. Jerry is the hard-working sort; inclined to keep his head down, do his job, and not make waves. However, Jerry’s efforts are all too often scuttled by the more abrasive Joe. Joe, who comes from a family of con artists, repeatedly pushes things too far in his attempts to get he and Jerry their big showbiz break. Joe's continual roving eye for the ladies also doesn’t help. He having left a string of broken hearts and promises in his wake.

(l-r) Christian Borle and J. Harrison Ghee in SOME LIKE IT HOT. Photo credit: Marc J. Franklin

Thanks to some quick talking and fast dancing, Jerry and Joe land a gig at a nightclub owned by mobster Spats Colombo (Mark Lotito). Not long after, the two find themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time when they witness Spats and his henchman commit murder. Forced to flee for their lives, Joe comes up with the idea to dress up as women so they can get safely out of town. Sought by both the mob and the police, the duo, now calling themselves “Josephine” and “Daphne”, join up with the Society Syncopators, an all-girl band about to go out on tour. The band is headed by Sweet Sue (NaTasha Yvette Williams). A Chicago fixture who has her own reasons for wanting to leave Chicago.

Also with the band is lead singer, Sugar Kane (Adrianna Hicks). A woman whose chronic lateness, fondness for the bottle and desire to be a film star puts her at odds with the rest of the band. While Joe and Jerry initially plan to stick with the group until it gets to San Diego, and then head for Mexico, complications arise which make them each reconsider. Joe finds himself drawn to Sugar, whose superior attitude masks a deep insecurity. Jerry meanwhile has become more and more comfortable in his female persona as he quickly becomes “just one of the girls”. A situation he is not ready to give up. However once they get to San Diego ,it’s “Daphne” who runs into romantic complications when she catches the eye of millionaire Osgood Feilding III (Kevin Del Aguila).

                          Adrianna Hicks in SOME LIKE IT HOT. Photo credit: Marc J. Franklin

Some Like It Hot works not only due to the comedic situations and enjoyable musical numbers, but also because of the more the somber moments crafted by bookwriters Matthew López and Amber Ruffin. Elements which crystallize perfectly in act two, where Osgood notes how "the world reacts to what it sees" but "doesn't have very good eyesight". A reference to peoples’ habit of taking everything and everyone at face value. Without trying to see what might be underneath.

This is a lesson learned by several of the characters. When Joe defends Sugar against hurtful comments from the other girls in the band, he begins to realize how he himself has treated women in the past. At the same time, Sugar begins to see in "Josephine" her first true female friend. One who can, ironically, see her for who she truly is. Meanwhile Jerry, who realizes how important getting in touch with his feminine side has become, realizes he has to stop simply following Joe’s lead and start to live life on his own terms.

The music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman & Shaiman are excellent. Several of their contributions (i.e. “You Can’t Have Me (If You Don’t Have Him)” and “Vamp” brought brilliantly to life thanks to the sterling musical, verbal, and physical interplay between Borle and Ghee. Casey Nicholaw’s direction and choreography is also a main contributor to the show’s success. Particularly enchanting is a graceful dance number between Joe and Sugar (“Dance the World Away”), which calls to mind a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers ballroom sequence.

                 Kevin Del Aguila and the cast of SOME LIKE IT HOT. Photo credit: Marc J. Franklin

When looking at Ghee as Jerry/Daphne it‘s hard to imagine anyone else in the part. This is a case of the performer fitting the role so perfectly, that the moment Daphne comes into being, it’s as if the actor and character have fused into one. The resulting performance is touching, comical and completely believable. The character also makes the number You Coulda Knocked Me Over With a Feather” into a truly show-stopping experience.

Borle make a perfect Joe, a heel when it comes to women, who learns the value of finding something more permanent. Hicks is very good as Sugar, a woman with a weakness for saxophone players who has constructed a cynical shell of protection due to bitter past experience. Hicks also powerfully delivers with the ballads “A Darker Shade of Blue” and “Ride Out the Storm”. Along with the quietly wistful “At the Old Majestic Nickel Matinee”.

    NaTasha Yvette Williams and the cast of SOME LIKE IT HOT. Photo credit: Marc J. Franklin

Williams is enjoyable as Sweet Sue, a brassy, no-nonsense, take-charge woman. Aguila is a perfect fit as Osgood. Someone who initially only seems there for comic relief, but eventually proves far to be more intuitive than expected. Angie Schworer is fun as Minnie. A member of the band who has a continual habit of confusing apartment numbers. Lotito has a nice scenery chewing role as Spats.

The only thing that doesn’t work as well as it should are some of the chase scenes. Most done in full tap dancing mode; and which are sometimes a bit more slapstick than necessary. The various sets by Scott Pask are enjoyable. Costumes by Gregg Barnes nicely fit the period, though they’re not all that memorable.

Some Like It Hot may not be completely perfect, but it comes pretty darn close.

Kevin Del Aguila, J. Harrison Ghee, NaTasha Yvette Williams, Adrianna Hicks, Christian Borle and the company of SOME LIKE IT HOT. Photo credit: Matthew Murphy

Featuring: NaTashya Yvette Williams (Sweet Sue), Christian Borle (Joe/Josephine), J. Harrison Ghee (Jerry/Daphne), Devon Hadsell (Nellie), Casey Garvin (Mack), Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. (Sonny), Mark Lotito (Spats), Adam Heller (Mulligan), Charles South (Toothpick Charlie), Angie Schworer (Minnie), TyNia René Brandon (Dolores), Kayla Pecchioni (Ginger), Jenny Hill (Vivian), Adrianna Hicks (Sugar), K.J. Hippensteel (Bar Manager, Man with Suitcase), Kevin Del Aguila (Osgood).

Society Syncopators: TyNia René Brandon, Gabi Campo, Devon Hadsell, Jenny Hill, Abby Matsusaka, Amber Owens, Kayla Pecchioni.

Gangsters, Porters, Bellhops, et, al.: K.J. Hippensteel, Casey Garvin, Jarvis B. Manning, Jr., Brian Martin, Charles South, Brendon Stimson, Julius Williams, Richard Raz Yoder.

Some Like It Hot

Book by Matthew Lopez and Amber Ruffin

Music by Marc Shaiman

Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman

Based on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Motion Picture "Some Like It Hot"

Scenic Designer: Scott Pask

Costume Designer: Gregg Barnes

Lighting Designer: Natasha Katz

Sound Deign: Brian Ronan

Hair Design: Josh Marquette

Makeup Design: Milagros Medina-Cerdeira

Additional Material by Christian Borle and Joe Farrell

Orchestrations: Charlie Rosen and Bryan Carter

Vocal Arrangements: Marc Shaiman

Dance & Incidental Music Arrangements: Glen Kelly

Music Director: Darryl Archibald

Music Coordinator: Kristy Norter

Directed and Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw


Sam S. Shubert Theatre

225 West 44th Street

Tickets: 212-632-6200 or


Running Time: 2 Hours, 40 minutes with one intermission

Open Run


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