January 28, 2023

Review: On "Some Like It Hot," a call for editing

Review: On “Some Like It Hot,” a call for editing

Take Osgood Fielding III, a millionaire who falls in love with Daphne. Now furnished with a substantial backstory—he’s Mexican-American, justifying a detour to a cantina south of the border—it’s less depraved than a case study in sexual laissez-faire. On the upside, we get Kevin Dale Aguila’s wonderfully sweet line readings and whimsical, wobbly dances. On the downside, the film’s killer final line, in which Osgood kisses Daphne with “Nobody’s Perfect,” is now tucked into an earlier lyric and lost in the shuffle.

And this is a great confusion: Nicolau has carried the performance into a dance rush. By the time he delivers a five-minute chase sequence near the end of the second act, with gangsters and bellhops and non-stop eavesdropping, you might feel the film’s darker comedy trading in — literally darker, with its eerie black and white. Cinematography – For the textures of a Broadway entertainment soufflé, it was a Faustian bargain. As gorgeous as the visual production is, with Art Deco sets by Scott Pask, Technicolor lights by Natasha Katz and eye-catching costumes by Gregg Barnes, it continues to squeeze the story’s quirkier spirit.

However, we get the message, mostly from Ghee, a non-binary artist who carefully traces Jerry’s transformation into Daphne, then fuses the two identities into a third that takes us into far more complex territory than banter drag. All the while, Jerry maintains a sense of wonder about the changes happening inside him that make the journey feel so welcome for those of us watching. “You Can Have Knocked Me Over With a Feather,” a song that sums up the character’s manifestations, is a highlight of the show’s final quarter, which was somewhat overburdened by competing numbers at 11:00.

Ultimately, it’s the manifestations and the visions that make it possible to enjoy, without too much guilt, the downright entertainment of “Some Like It Hot,” including groans, hyperbole and old-school gags. How clever, for example, that Daphne shows off the spectrum of sexuality by singing, simply, “I crossed the line.” (It’s clever, too, that it’s sung on the scene in Mexico.) And how satisfying that Osgood succinctly connects issues of his identity with hers: “The world reacts to what he sees,” he says, “and in experiencing the world he doesn’t have very good eyesight.”

Probably not, but some of her artists do have a pretty ear.

Some like it hot
at the Shubert Theatre, Manhattan; somelikeihotmusical.com. Show duration: 2 hours and 30 minutes.