amBroadway | Many ought to ‘Like It Hot’, Audra McDonald returns to the stage and more

Some Like it Hot on Broadway
Adrianna Hicks in “Some Like it Hot” on Broadway
Photo by Marc J. Franklin/provided

The new Broadway musical adaptation of the revered 1959 film comedy “Some Like It Hot” is a textbook study in how to successfully adapt a classic piece in a way that honors its original spirit while updating it to have a diverse and inclusive sensibility.

As directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw (“The Book of Mormon,” “Something Rotten!”), “Some Like It Hot” is a fresh, splashy and fast-paced delight. The book, by Matthew Lopez (“The Inheritance”) and comedian Amber Ruffin, carefully reconceives the original characters and make cross-dressing into something more than just a joke.

The cast is dynamite, including an upbeat Christian Borle as Joe/Josephine (the Tony Curtis role), a sensitive and fabulous J. Harrison Ghee as Jerry/Daphne (the Jack Lemmon role), and a glowing Adrianna Hicks as Sugar (the Marilyn Monroe role).

With the exception of the lively title song, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s (“Hairspray”) big band-style score is derivative and serviceable at best. But taken on the whole, “Some Like It Hot” is more than worth celebrating.

Audra McDonald brings Adrienne Kennedy to Broadway

In 1964, Adrienne Kennedy rose to prominence as a Black experimental playwright with the one-act drama “Funnyhouse of a Negro.” Nearly 60 years later, Kennedy, now 91 years old, is making her Broadway debut with a new production of her 1991 graphic mystery drama “Ohio State Murders” starring Audra McDonald (who appeared in a streaming production of the play last year) and directed by the ever-busy Kenny Leon (“Topdog/Underdog”).

This marks the first show to play the Cort Theatre since it was physically renovated and renamed as the James Earl Jones Theatre.

A solo piece with cameo appearances by three additional actors, “Ohio State Murders” is an absorbing and chilling semi-autobiographical work in which a writer, in the course of delivering a college lecture, looks back on the tragedy she endured at the same location years ago.

It should come as no surprise that McDonald, a six-time Tony Award winner, delivers another masterful performance, while aided by first-rate production values that reflect her character’s fragile state of memory.

Yiddish ‘Fiddler’ returns Off-Broadway

It’s been more than four years since I caught the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s lauded staging of “Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish” when it premiered at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City. It subsequently transferred Off-Broadway for a year, and is now playing a short return engagement at New World Stages with much of the original cast.

This remains a simple but solid production of the beloved musical that combines the novelty of hearing the script and score in Yiddish (with English supertitles) with an efficient recreation of the original Jerome Robbins choreography.

‘Downstate’ delves into sex offenders

“Downstate,” an Off-Broadway drama by Bruce Norris (“Clybourne Park”) at Playwrights Horizons about four very different men who were convicted of sex crimes against minors and now reside together in a group home, recently became the subject of national media attention thanks to Ted Cruz, who misleadingly tweeted that “the corporate media is praising pedophilia” because the play received a positive review in the Washington Post.

The two-and-a-half-hour play does contain some questionable choices and hackneyed devices, but is often compelling as it attempts to empathize with deeply troubled individuals and question society’s extensive legal punishment for certain crimes without ignoring the gravity of those crimes and the mental and emotional anguish experienced by victims and their families.

As demonstrated by the Cruz tweet, this is not an easy feat.