Review Roundup: What Did The Critics Think Of Broadway-Bound TOOTSIE in Chicago?
TOOTSIE's world premiere pre-Broadway engagement officially opened last night, September 30, at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre. The show runs through October 14 before opening on Broadway on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 at the Marquis Theatre.
TOOTSIE tells the story of a talented but difficult actor who struggles to find work until an audacious, desperate stunt lands him the role of a lifetime.
TOOTSIE features an original score by Tony Award-winner David Yazbek (The Band's Visit, The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), a book by Robert Horn (13; Dame Edna, Back with a Vengeance), choreography by Tony Award nominee Denis Jones (Holiday Inn, Honeymoon in Vegas), and musical direction by Andrea Grody (The Band's Visit). Tootsie will be directed by eight-time Tony Award nominee and Olivier Award winner Scott Ellis (She Loves Me, On the Twentieth Century).
The company is led by Tony Award nominee Santino Fontana as Michael Dorsey, Lilli Cooper as Julie Nichols, Sarah Stiles as Sandy Lester, John Behlmann as Max Van Horn, Andy Grotelueschen as Jeff Slater, Julie Halston as Rita Marshall, Michael McGrath as Stan Fields, and Reg Rogers as Ron Carlisle.
The company also includes Sissy Bell, Barry Busby, Paula Leggett Chase, Britney Coleman, Leslie Donna Flesner, Jenifer Foote, John Arthur Greene, Drew King, Jeff Kready, Harris Milgrim, Adam Monley, Shina Ann Morris, James Moye, Katerina Papacostas, Diana Vaden, and Anthony Wayne.
The design team for Tootsie includes scenic designer David Rockwell, costume designer William Ivey Long, lighting designer Donald Holder, sound designer Brian Ronan, hair and wig design by Paul Huntley, make-up design by Angelina Avallone. Casting is by Jim Carnahan C.S.A. Music supervision is by Andrea Grody & Dean Sharenow, vocal arrangements by Andrea Grody, dance arrangements by David Chase, orchestrations by Simon Hale, and music coordination by Dean Sharenow.
TOOTSIE is produced by Scott Sanders Productions, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Carol Fineman, Columbia Live Stage, Sally Horchow, James L. Nederlander, Judith Ann Abrams, Robert Greenblatt, Benjamin Lowy, Cindy and Jay Gutterman/Marlene and Gary Cohen, Stephanie P. McClelland, Michael Harrison/David Ian, A Few Good Women Productions, Roy Furman, Peter May, Seriff Productions LLC, Tom McGrath/42nd.club, The John Gore Organization, Independent Presenters Network, Chris and Ashlee Clarke, Phil Goldfine, Jonathan Littman, The Woodland Hills Broadway Group.
Let's see what the critics have to say!
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Still, "Tootsie" gets so very much right. It's by far the best of this recent crop of Chicago tryouts: I've surely never seen a musical comedy so deliciously lampoon the familiar tropes of Broadway choreography (choreographer Denis Jones has both both guts and self-awareness) and, by being so palpably warmhearted, it avoids causing any offense in an era much changed from 1982. No easy feat, that.
Catey Sullivan, Chicago Sun-Times: Yazbek's score is fine. Given the program's lack of a song list, it is also perhaps still in flux. For now, it includes a mix of aptly soaring I-Want anthems, goofy character songs and pleasingly energetic all-hands-on-deck production numbers. Horn's dialogue has some genuine zingers. Choreographer Scott Ellis has laden the dances with insidery-theater type references which are hilarious, particularly within the show-within-the-show. His narration of steps is a high point in hilarity. Watch for the pop-up "Chorus Line" homage. It's a few bars of heaven.
Alex Huntsberger, Time Out: None of it this would work without Fontana. He inhabits Dorothy with deadly seriousness; she is a true-blue leading lady (and a dead ringer for Dana Carvey's Church Lady). But he doesn't let the selfish Michael off the hook-and neither does the script, which significantly reworks the story's final stretch in one of many welcome updates from the film.
Madeline Barbeau, The Torch: The script, written by Robert Horn, has many laugh-out loud moments that comment on the difficult lives of actors and their need to make art mean something while also sustaining an easy-going reputation. The score by David Yazbeck with orchestrations led by Simon Hale are fun, but could use a bit of reworking to be a bit more memorable before they hit the Broadway stage.
Misha Davenport, BroadwayWorld: Still, this TOOTSIE gets a lot right. Unlike other pre-Broadway shows based on films that we have seen this season, it's smart enough to allow the source material to evolve for the stage and era that it is being presented. With a few tweaks, TOOTSIE will no doubt end up capture the heart of Broadway audiences.
Andy Argyrakis, Chicago Concert Reviews: And more importantly, there's struggling actor Michael Dorsey (Santino Fontana), who disguises himself as actress Dorothy Michaels (better known as simply Tootsie) to get a gig and can still fool everyone with the same red-sequined gown from the VHS and record jackets, but nowadays comes equipped with a heartier helping of women's empowerment. When not fighting for equal billing and pay or rallying against the stereotypically chauvinistic director Ron (Rag Rogers), he/she's making fast friends with pansexually considering co-star Julie (Lilli Cooper), blowing off his ex-girlfriend Sandy (Sarah Stiles) or trying to shake the love-crazed reality show dude with the chiseled abs turned talentless ensemble member Max (John Behlmann).
Hedy Weiss, WTTW: Ultimately, for all its timely social commentary, "Tootsie" is a lightweight confection about show business itself. It could use some trimming. And its all-important final scene could use some fine-tuning as it skews the time frame of the action and doesn't quite nail that crucial line from the film in which Dorsey tells Julie, "I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man."
Steven Oxman, Variety: It's all absurd, ridiculous to the point of surreality, but the musical-theater setting enables the whole show to poke giant fun at itself and have lots of fun doing it. The choreography, from Denis Jones, a series of bounces and gyrations, gets satirized by Rogers' Carlisle early and then makes those movements charming for the best number of the evening, a "Producers"-like tribute to the jittery excitement of opening night. Yazbek's score is strikingly, self-consciously over-the-top: You know something's right when the music itself feels witty.
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