On a rainy Sunday afternoon, “Some Like It Hot” opened on Broadway and furnished the Shubert Theater with its most glittering audience in recent memory.
Patti LuPone, Bette Midler, Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Martin Short, Andrea Mitchell, Debra Messing, Uma Thurman, John Stamos, Neil Patrick Harris, Amy Sedaris and many more all filed through Shubert Alley to attend the exciting new stage adaptation of the classic 1959 film comedy.
Starring Christian Borle, J. Harrison Ghee, Natasha Yvette Williams and Adrianna Hicks in Marilyn Monroe’s fabled role, “Some Like It Hot” comes to Broadway as an entirely new musical, not a revival. In a time where intricate, justice-laden plays have the upper hand — and the musical genre struggles to find its footing between the social-theatrical project and camp — “Some Like It Hot” opened on Sunday with an answer for success: The new adaptation reinterprets MGM’s original concept — two musicians on the run from the mob dress in drag to join a traveling all-women act — to make a few heartfelt and careful observations about gender and acceptance. But it’s all good fun. Brassy and indulgent, something old is something new.
“Somebody put me in my seat!” Martin Short yelled outside the theater. “I might miss it!”
But it’s no accident how “Some Like It Hot” has come to pass on Broadway, where fun is otherwise an adjective for flimsy. The Shubert’s guest list on Sunday is evidence: “Some Like It Hot” is led by a pedigree of creators with big reputations and a project to restore the musical.
Producer Neil Meron, the hidden hand and counterpart of the late Craig Zagan, whose movies like “Hairspray” and NBC events like “The Wiz Live!” resurrected both movie and television musicals this century, summed up the mission statement to Variety before the show: “It’s all about Broadway at its best. It’s so old fashioned, it’s new again.”
Meron is joined by Tony-winning director Casey Nicholaw, whose mastery of musical comedy and encyclopedia of dance has made him a seer for success, having directed and choreographed shows like “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Something Rotten!” and “The Prom.” Meron is also joined by the composing and lyrical duo of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, whose grasp of Broadway song and structure — and dedication to the Broadway big band sound — have earned them acclaim with musicals like “Hairspray” and “Catch Me If You Can.”
“It’s been a lot of hard work all these years, trying to figure it out,” Shaiman told Variety before the show on Sunday. “Now, it’s moving to see the show say a few important things to a modern audience, but wrapped in this wonderful package of the kind of classic Broadway musical we would want to see and dream of writing.”
Meron also tapped Tony-winning playwright Matthew Lopez and late-night host Amber Ruffin to retool the book. “I tried to make sure that it’s a party,” Ruffin told Variety on Sunday. She summed up the creative team’s philosophy as succinctly as possible: “Why aren’t we having the most fun? Okay, we want to learn some things and have a couple of feelings. That’s fine, I get it. But people don’t know you can have something of substance that’s also the best time ever. You can do it. It’s totally legal and everybody should.”
On Meron, Shaiman and Wittman’s part — as the astute listener might catch, with “Let’s Be Bad” tucked into the score — there is also a second story to be told on opening night, a musical within a musical. Shadowing “Some Like It Hot” is “Bombshell” — or maybe “Smash: The Musical” — the Meron-produced, Wittman and Shaiman-composed Marilyn Monroe musical written for the first season of NBC’s network show “Smash.” Beloved by the theater community for its depiction of life on Broadway and mourned for its untimely demise in the network machine, “Smash” holds a special place in the theater community; Meron has been trying to mount a musical adaptation of the NBC show (or the Monroe musical itself) on Broadway since.
“‘Smash’ has been on a positive path since we did a reading in May,” Meron told Variety on Sunday. “Should ‘Some Like It Hot’ be the success we want it to be, it might add another dimension to making the musical happen.”
According to Meron, the show’s secretive reading earlier this summer “infused all of us with the courage that we’re on the right path. We’re in the process of hiring a director, and we’re setting out a schedule right now.” While the musical was rumored to target a 2023 run, Meron said it’s looking “probably like 2024.”
Borle, who also starred in “Smash,” offered a different take: “Part of me really hopes there’s enough weird nostalgia for ‘Smash,’ along with a more niche market for television, that there’s a moment where ‘Smash’ comes back… Because we were doing network television, it couldn’t be about the nut and bolts of doing theater, but, with streaming, we could tell the real story.”
Borle fantasized, “We could all sit around, ‘A Chorus Line’-style, and tell it like is. We wouldn’t have to make up a thing.”