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‘The Broadway Show’: ‘Some Like It Hot’ writers Matthew López and Amber Ruffin on what actually makes comedy today

Tony Award winner Matthew López and comedian and talk show host Amber Ruffin have teamed up to deliver a new musical version of "Some Like It Hot" that focuses on the funny.

NaTasha Yvette Williams and the cast of 'Some Like It Hot' (Photo by: Marc J. Franklin).

Tony Award winner Matthew López and comedian and talk show host Amber Ruffin have teamed up to deliver a new musical version of “Some Like It Hot” that focuses on the funny.

In the latest episode of “The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal,” the co-book writers talk to Paul Wontorek about how they approached the piece, based on the MGM film of the same name.

The musical began previews at the Shubert Theatre on Nov. 1 ahead of an official opening scheduled for Dec. 11. The production marks Ruffin’s Broadway debut, while López returns to the Main Stem after he won the 2020 Best Play Tony Award for writing “The Inheritance.”

Though the movie takes place in 1929 and was filmed in the late 1950s, Ruffin said that the story has a generational appeal due to the film’s widespread success. Still, to cater to today’s climate and audiences, Ruffin and López took a different approach when penning the musical’s book.

When asked how they wrote the story with a lens of today, López replied that “the idea of a 21st-century lens on this story is a bit of a misnomer. What it really is is removing the 20th-century lens from it. If you remove the 20th-century lens from the story, it automatically works today,” López said. “Our ideas of a period piece are formed by the period in which that art was made, in which there are so many restrictions on who can tell what story and about whom these stories are told. It isn’t as if queer people just magically sprung up from the ground in 1969. They were there all along.”

“We were not gone, we were just not talked about.”

Ruffin joined the team of “Some Like It Hot” for two reasons: first because of the outstanding team assembled, and second because the leading lady, Sugar — played in the film by Marilyn Monroe — is a Black woman.

When it came to Sugar’s character, Ruffin noted that “we just got to write a human being.” It wasn’t a “Black person in a white show” scenario. She said, “Instead of writing the show through the white lens, we just got to write the show with no freakin’ lens.”

“It is an honor to get to take the thing so many people love and rip it up into one million pieces and then reassemble it to be completely different,” Ruffin joked. “It’s a delight.”

The co-writers re-thought the three main characters — Joe, Jerry and Sugar — from scratch. That’s because of their combined lived experiences as well as their comedic perspectives. The duo agreed that what was once funny, especially at the time when the film premiered in 1959, isn’t necessarily what a 2022 audience would laugh at. “To the audience for the original movie, two cis-men in dresses was funny. Neither of us think that’s funny.”

“It’s hard to make a joke out of something you don’t find funny,” López continued. “What I do find funny is idiots in trouble.”

This week’s episode of “The Broadway Show” also features an interview with rapper Common, currently making his Broadway debut in “Between Riverside and Crazy.” Wontorek also sat down with “Matilda” director Matthew Warchus and Alisha Weir, who takes on the title role in the upcoming film adaptation of the 2013 musical. Viewers can also catch moments from the opening nights of “A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical” and “Ain’t No Mo’.”

“The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal” airs on weekends. Check your local listings for air time and channel.