In the new musical ‘Tootsie,’ Santino Fontana plays Michael Dorsey. Michael is an arrogant actor who thinks so highly of himself that he gets fired from almost every gig he has gotten. In an act of desperation he dresses up as a woman to go for an audition, and he gets the part. The show is directed by flamboyant director Ron Carlisle (Reg Rogers), who had previously fired Michael from a different show. Michael, as Dorothy Michaels, begins to slowly manipulate the cast and producer into giving him more and more creative control over the project, but as he gains creative control he starts to lose control over the situation which he has created. He falls in love with a co-star who in turn falls in love with Michael’s female persona, another co-star also falls in love with Dorothy and on op of that he gets cast in a play but as a man.
The music is serviceable at best and forgettable at worst but it does a good job of complementing the situations that are written for it.
Robert Horn wrote the Tony-winning book of this musical and is joined by David Yazbek (of ‘The Band’s Visit fame) for the music and lyrics. The music is serviceable at best and forgettable at worst but it does a good job of complementing the situations that Robert Horn has written for it. The premise of the show seems to lend itself to extremely funny situations, which are expertly performed by the actors. Santino Fontana has an incredible sense of timing and he creates a completely new character in ‘Dorothy Michaels.’ Sarah Stiles and Andy Grotelueschen are hilarious as their respective characters, Sandy and Jeff, and they shine as the secondary characters. Lilli Cooper on the other hand, who plays the love-interest, does only an adequate job of playing the character but I can forgive her for that since she isn’t given enough material to make the character stand out. She seems the most real and therefore gets lost between all the other larger-than-life characters.
For a moment there it seemed that the writers were making the show politically conscious but they immediately hide it by slamming a joke on top of it.
Reg Rogers is great as the over-the-top Broadway-director but the writers put him into a weird spot by creating a sort of ‘#metoo’ scenario that goes absolutely nowhere, for a moment there it seemed that the writers were making the show politically conscious but they immediately hide it by slamming a joke on top of it. This is a theme that permeates throughout the show: Michael never gets reprimanded for using drag/female impersonation for personal gain and the small confrontation he does get at the inevitable ‘liar revealed’ moment turns out to be a dud because the writers desperately want to give this show a sort of happy ending.
The problem with ‘Tootsie’ lies solely in the writers room. The actors all to an amazing job with the material that’s given to them.
The writers of ‘Tootsie’ seem to have encountered the same problem that ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ has. They have written this relatable, likable even, main character that performs such irredeemably bad actions that it is hard for the audience not to agree with the inevitable opposition and so they limit the confrontation to next to nothing making the climax feel empty. They wanted to write a funny show but chose a premise that in 2019 just doesn’t work as ‘only’ a comedy, it needed to have more layers of depth which the writers failed to give it. You will laugh your butts off but there won’t be any catharsis at the end, you’ll just feel hollow. And just to reiterate: the problem with ‘Tootsie’ lies solely in the writers room. The actors all to an amazing job with the material that’s given to them, the set design as well as the lightning design is amazing. The costume design is full of clever tear-aways and quick-changes that make it a joy to behold but it, as well as the music, just isn’t enough to elevate the mediocre material.
Starring Santino Fontana, Lilli Cooper, Sarah Stiles, John Behlmann, Andy Grotelueschen, Julie Halston, Michael McGrath and Reg Rogers
Music and lyrics by David Yazbek,Book by Robert Horn, Choreographed by Denis Jones, Directed by Scott Ellis
Seen on August 23rd 2019 at the Marquis Theater on Broadway, NY