I haven’t written in a while, you may have noticed, call it blog burn out. I’m trying to figure that out, but in the meantime, I feel compelled to write today after seeing “Tootsie” on Broadway last night.
The movie, which I saw countless times as a little girl, remains one of my favorites to this day. However, when I first heard about the play, I was skeptical. I wasn’t quite sure how they could get it right on stage.
But when the opportunity arose to see the show, I have to admit that I jumped and was bursting with excitement the day of the show. Besides, the show had won 11 Tony Award nominations, a Drama Critics’ Circle Award, and countless other awards – certainly the show had elements from the movie and beyond which I would love. Plus, music by David Yazbek, whose music I adored in “The Band’s Visit,” writing by Robert Horn, direction by Scott Ellis, costumes by William Ivey Long, and a cast that features Santino Fontana, one of my favorite actors who I fell for while watching the first season of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Reg Rogers, Andy Grotelueschen, Julie Halston, Michael McGrath, Sarah Stiles, and John Behlmann. – there was really no question that I had to see this show.
The biggest surprise about the musical – and there were many, to be frank, was that the story has been updated for the post #MeToo #TimesUp movements. The storyline has been altered in many ways to make it more of a feminist musical, and that was not something I had not expected. Tootsie/Michael herself/himself learns a valuable lesson or two after playing a woman and shares his/her observations about it at the end of the play about how women are treated by men, paid less, etc. Julie Nichols, the character originally played by Jessica Lange and now played by Lilli Cooper, is empowered, with no father or child to lean on. She knows what she wants. Julie Halston plays a Broadway producer who makes all the decisions about the play she is producing and constantly puts her male director in place. The show makes it clear that inclusivity is everything.
In the movie, Dustin Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey as a man who expects every woman to drop everything for a fling in the sack with him. In the play, he’s looking for a relationship from the get-go and is more concerned about connecting with the person he falls in love with. Julie is more of his equal. The soap opera Michael gets cast in becomes a Broadway musical – a musical version of “Romeo and Juliet” – and the story’s characters have been made over to become versions that fit into that landscape, but it all seems to work.
The music isn’t particularly memorable, but it’s so funny and endearing. I adored Yazbeck’s score for “The Band’s Visit” so I feel compelled to listen to the soundtrack again. The most memorable song for me was “What’s Gonna Happen,” sung by Sandy Stiles who plays Teri Garr’s character from the movie, and she is a pistol. The other song that stands out is called “Unstoppable,” when Tootsie realizes her/his level of fame was everything he/she had always dreamt of.
But without Santino Fontana, who is perfect as Michael and as Tootsie, would this show be as wonderful? I’m not sure. His voice inflections as a woman and man, which he goes back and forth seamlessly, the way he wears the clothes created by William Ivey Long, his stage presence and seeming love for the show and everything it brings to life in 2019, all work.
And with that, I leave you with “Unstoppable.”
Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to facilitate a piece I am working on for another web site, but all opinions are my own.