Some Like It Hot

Original Broadway Cast, 2023 (Concord Theatricals) 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) Broadway musicals based on movies are nothing new, but Billy Wilder’s masterpiece Some Like it Hot may hold the distinction of being the only movie to serve as the basis for two Broadway musicals. First, there was Jule Styne, Bob Merrill, and Peter Stone’s attempt in 1972, resulting in the inoffensive but unimpressive Sugar. And now, 50 years later, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, working in collaboration with book writers Matthew Lopez and Amber Ruffin, have taken their shot. Shaiman and Wittman brought an electrifying originality to their stellar pastiche score for Hairspray, so the duo might have seemed a perfect fit to write a ’20s-era jazz score with a modern twist. The Lopez/Ruffin book aims to expand upon the movie’s themes of gender and sexuality with more currency, and an excitingly diverse cast has been assembled this time around, so the new version appeared to have all the ingredients necessary to supplant 1972’s missed opportunity. And yet, it still doesn’t make a strong enough case for musicalizing the source material.  Shaiman and Wittman’s lyrics are as succinct and cheeky as ever (“You Can’t Have Me If You Don’t Have Him,” “Poor Little Millionaire”), but Shaiman’s music lacks identity; if everything sounds enjoyable in a pastiche way, nothing sounds distinctive. While the cast album gets off to a fun, hyper start with “What are You Thirsty For?”, each song that follows insists on maintaining that same level of energy, so the score soon begins to sound frenetic as the songs blend together and/or remind you of jingles from the past. (The title song bears a very strong resemblance to the theme song from the old animated TV show Huckleberry Hound.) And though Charlie Rosen and Bryan Carter’s orchestrations are properly splashy and broad, they lack the steam that makes jazz of the ’20s special. Some of the cast members do strong work, J. Harrison Ghee scoring with Jerry/Daphne’s Act 2 showstopper “You Coulda Knocked Me Over With a Feather” and Kevin Del Aguila perfect as the impish millionaire Osgood in “Let’s Be Bad.” Less successful are Christian Borle as Joe/Josephine and Adrianna Hicks as Sugar Kane; while Borle is always an entertaining presence, he’s rather miscast as the caddish Joe, and Hicks comes across as too polished for the messy Sugar. It’s also unfortunate that Shaiman and Wittman felt the need to make Hicks reach for the rafters of her upper register in the final verse of every one of Sugar’s songs, such as “A Darker Shade of Blue” and “Ride Out the Storm.” Even though Hicks handles it all with ease and aplomb, it would’ve been nice to hear more of Sugar’s vulnerability in softer, more lyrical singing. But that, in a nut shell, is what keeps this score from taking off: It’s so eager to get hot that it never stops to consider when it can relax and simmer instead of boil and bubble. — Matt Koplik