Some Like it Hot is just one of the latest movie-to-musical adaptations to hit The Great White Way. These film-to-stage reconstructions typically come to be because the movie was a box office hit (or cult phenomenon) and producers hope to ride the wave of the film’s original success. This is fair. Name recognition, celebrity headliners, and a general understanding of the story are all understandable draws for the new or irregular theater-goer.
There are too many of these shows to list, but to me, the key ingredient of musicals that live up to their original films are the ones that do more than simply plop the story on a stage. The characters, narrative, visuals, and music need to be fresh and exciting—otherwise, I’d rather just watch the movie I first fell in love with (at home, on my couch, as part of my Netflix subscription).
So, where does this show fit in?
Some Like it Hot is based on the 1959 Marilyn Monroe crime-comedy classic. After witnessing a murder scene, two brothers disguise themselves as women and join an all-femle traveling jazz band to escape the team of mobsters on their tail. Unsurprisingly, things get complicated and one of the brothers falls in love with the band’s leading lady while the other is pursued (as a gal) by a mister millionaire. But, to keep us on our toes, the show’s book writers add some much-needed nuance to some of the outdated messages, tropes, and character arcs that wouldn’t quite fly 63 years later.
With a brand new book and score (save a few of the iconic lines from the movie), Some Like it Hot didn’t need to be a pseudo-revival of the classic film—remastered to quell us more ‘woke’ theater-goers. If Some Like it Hot had been a completely new show, this would have given even more breathing room to the creators and freed up some of the lead characters to have the depth and complexity the talented actors so deserve.
But now, on to the dancing! And there is no shortage of ‘ography in Some Like it Hot. Before I dive in, I must start out by saying, Thank you. When female-presenting dancers are quite literally being thrown around on stage, a 3-inch character heel is not only unnecessary, it is dangerous. I was so grateful to see the female ensemble in stylish—and sensible—1-inch heeled shoes in the opening lindy hop. Bra-freakin’-va!
On we go—>When Casey Nicholaw choreographs a show, I know it’s going to look like “Broadway” (cue jazz hands and a million-watt smile). His work is always dynamic and energetic, presentational and absolutely magnetic. And, no matter if we’re in Disney’s imaginary Agrabah, the Mormon-mecca of Salt Lake City, a midwestern high school, Renaissance Europe, or prohibition-era Chicago, his movement is foundationally pretty much the same (with a riff on the Charleston, hypnotic isolation, or fist pump in the air to add some show-specific flavor).
In Nicolaw shows, the world is Broadway—and make no mistake, it is a magical one. But sometimes (or, to be real, most of the time) I like to go to Broadway and not think that I’m “at” a Broadway show. I want to be so wrapped up in the world that I forget I’m being performed to, I forget that there are different elements functioning in a musical because the music, dancing, story, sets, lighting, costumes—all of it— all blend so seamlessly that you can’t think about them apart from one another. My name is @thedancejournalist. I go to Broadway shows for the dancing. Dancing is my favorite thing in the entire world. And, as much as I love a good ol’ classic time step, must tap dance in a Disney world of wonder look the same as tap dance in a 1920s mafia-run metropolis? Maybe it doesn’t need to…Maybe a dance break could do a little more.
There is no question that Casey Nicholaw is a king of Broadway (having had at least 3 of his shows running at the same time for the past several years) and clearly his formula works. But that’s just me…I never liked math.
Don’t get me wrong—I had a wonderful time at the theater. I smiled and laughed, I anticipated and pondered, I oogled and awed (especially during the epic chase scene in Act II. I can only imagine that tech rehearsal…). And, Some Like it Hot is not the smash hit that could have been. In true Carrie Bradshaw form, I couldn’t help but wonder…was it the original movie outline, expectation, and aura that stifled the updated musical rendition? Or, was it all of the “new and improved for 2022” revisions that felt a bit too earnest and forced to make up for the problematic themes of the original?
As we gear up for ever more movies-turned-musicals, I think this is a question we should consider: At what point does it make more sense (and open up more creative opportunity) to just make something brand new? Something with no precedent, formula, or pre-conceptions to dampen the reach of where a show can go. This is not a criticism, but a compliment of the whole SLIH creative team. Some Like it Hot is a jubilant night at the theater. And, there’s greater potential to tap into.
Please go see this show, and others. Please go support live theater—now more than ever. But most importantly, don’t let your experience end when the curtain comes down. That’s not how art works—or, not how it should. Think about it, talk about it, pose questions, change your mind. That’s the real magic of Broadway. Just my two cents…