The stage musical version of “Some Like it Hot” is due on Broadway in 2022, and the production has scored the talents of two acclaimed writers: Matthew López, whose play about queer men and the legacy of AIDS, “The Inheritance,” has 11 Tony Nominations, and Amber Ruffin, the host of Peacock’s late night comedy series “The Amber Ruffin Show,” who also writes for “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (“Hairspray”) are working on the music and Casey Nicholaw (“The Book of Mormon,” “The Prom”) will direct. The musical is based on the classic drag comedy that starred Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. With so many queer men on board in the creative process, this story will most certainly take on added dimensions that were only suggested or subtextual when the film was made. And Ruffin, who is heterosexual and hilarious, is the first Black woman hired to work on the show. Your 2021 homework, then, is to watch the original film, get familiar with Ruffin’s Peacock show — because it’s a brilliant example of how to make a late-night talk show work in a studio-audience-less pandemic — and get a vaccine so you can make it out to Broadway next year.
‘Fever’ rises again with Michelle Williams and Todd Haynes
The Peggy Lee biopic, “Fever,” has been in development, stopping and starting, for at least eight years at this point. The late Nora Ephron wrote an early script, and Todd Haynes has been attached to direct for a long time now, but casting and production schedules have come and gone. Now Michelle Williams has been cast as Lee and everything seems to be back on track. Williams has worked with Haynes before on the Bob Dylan-themed film “I’m Not Here,” and she’s also been circling the Janis Joplin biopic (talk about Development Hell — that one’s been gestating since the early 2000s). Adding fuel to the “Fever” fire, Billie Eilish is in talks to come aboard as an executive producer, so this thing might finally have its figurative and literal stars aligned to move closer to being on a big screen near you. It’s got us imagining a spooky Eilish cover of “Is That All There Is.”
A ‘Wizard of Oz’ remake? Lol ok.
New Line Cinema is teaming up with Emmy Award winning filmmaker Nicole Kassell (“Watchmen”) for a remake of “The Wizard of Oz.” Kassell will direct, but there’s no cast yet, no script to speak of, and no word on a production timeline. What there is, though, is intention, not only to make a fresh adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” but to make it memorable and distinct from the classic 1939 film that starred a 17-year-old Judy Garland in one of the most indelible performances of her career. Should this be done? Can it be done? Tough questions, really, especially when you’re talking about a film that made cinema history, routinely winds up on “all time best” lists, and has shaped queer culture over the 20th century, as well. There’s obviously no choice but to be a little skeptical. But still, it can’t really hurt to try, right? We are willing to believe because we live in hope for good things, so watch this space for updates.
Udo Kier’s ‘Swan Song’
Todd Stephens might not be a household name, but queer kids who grew up in the late ’90s and early 2000s have a special place in their hearts for the 1998 coming out comedy he wrote, “Edge of Seventeen.” He’d later go on to write and direct two more youth-oriented features, “Gypsy 83” and “Another Gay Movie.” But 2021 year finds him with a new movie set to premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, one about elder queer life. It’s called “Swan Song” and stars Udo Kier as a former hairdresser, restless and lonely in a nursing home, who breaks out and walks across his small town in order to fulfill the wishes of a recently deceased former client. Her will asks that he be the one to give her her final hairdo, and he’s determined to make it happen. The bittersweet comedy also stars Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans and Michael Urie. And because SXSW is virtual this year, you can get a ticket and watch at home without having to travel to Austin. Fix your hair up for it anyway. Make an effort.
‘Pose’ star Hailie Sahar to portray Sir Lady Java
Sir Lady Java is a queer history legend: an exotic dancer, singer and comic in the 1960s who also became a trans rights activist. Arriving in Los Angeles in her early 20s, she became known on the nightclub circuit and appeared on stage with well-known entertainers like Redd Foxx, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr. and Richard Pryor. She also had to battle an L.A. city ordinance that banned cross-dressing, one that threatened to make her work life next to impossible, by staging rallies and protests, eventually winning the fight. Now Emmy-winning queer director Anthony Hemingway (“American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson”) has taken on Sir Lady Java’s biopic (working title is, appropriately, “Sir Lady Java”) and “Pose” star Hailie Sahar will move into the title role. We love a queer project about queer subjects created by queer people, and we especially love it that Sahar will get a shot at a new role (especially now that “Pose” is headed for its third and final season) — one that was designed for a trans actress to step into. It seems like the days of trans performers not being considered for trans roles are on the way out, and it’s about time. The project is in pre-production right now, with a start date expected sometime this year. We can’t wait!
Alec Mapa, Alec Baldwin and Kelsey Grammer: The Odd Throuple?
Based on what the public has come to know about the sometimes difficult reputations of actors Alec Baldwin and Kelsey Grammer, it seems like a great time to cast them as roommates with combative egos. And that’s what’s coming this fall when “Modern Family” writer/producers Chris Lloyd and Vali Chandrasekaran’s new untitled sitcom arrives. Untitled for now, the veteran actors, alongside queer comic Alec Mapa, will play three friends who’ve known each other for decades, and whose past as bickering roommates collides with their present – as bickering roommates. No other details are known at this point, but reports are that Mapa’s character will be the empathy-driven gay peacemaker. Of course, we’ve seen enough of Mapa’s delightful comic work to know that at some point his peacekeeping will turn into gay truth telling. In other words we want to see him domestically dominate some straight men. That would be justice, we think. Keep an eye out for whatever it is they finally decide to call this one.