BWW Review: TOOTSIE, Broadway's Next Great Musical Comedy
Oh, TOOTSIE. I was wondering what would be a top contender at next year's Tony's and, to borrow a line from the original film's Oscar-nominated song, something'stelling me it might be you.
Horn has produced what is one of the funniest musical comedies in years. If you don't laugh multiple times during this show, you might want to check your pulse.
Fontana delivers what can only be described as a great Broadway performance as Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels. Michael is an ego-centric, opinionated and very difficult actor to work with. In the show's opening number, he is fired from the ensemble of a Broadway musical and suffers a slew of rapid-fire auditions only to learn that his reputation has simply burned too many bridges and no one wants to work with him. At the Times Square steakhouse where he works to pay the bills, he laments with his co-worker and roommate Jeff (and equally funny Andy Grotelueschen, whose character is the show's moral compass, really). At his 40th birthday party, Michael steals away to his bedroom with his neurotic ex-girlfriend Sandy (Sarah Stiles) to help her prepare for an audition that she has the following day for a new musical. From there, he decides to audition for the part himself, but as a woman.
Fontana succeeds here in making what could easily be an unlikable character somewhat loveable. And, as Dorothy, he has a surprisingly powerful falsetto that makes you believe he has the voice and acting chops to pull the ruse off.
The new musical can aptly be described as being inspired by the 1982 comedy film and that's a good thing. The film's running gag of Dorothy trying to avoid a co-star's increasingly bolder sexual harassment doesn't really work in the #MeToo era. Shifting the focus to modern day Broadway makes a certain bit of sense.
Stiles' character has a number of meltdown moments and she excels at the broad physical comedy. Not since "Company" has an actress been asked to wrap her lips around a rapid-fire list of lyrics while having a meltdown and Stiles rises to the challenge.
John Behlmann also delivers a winning comedic performance as Dorothy's sweet, but dim-witted and well-muscled co-star who finds himself falling for a type of women he never thought he would go for.
Like must pre-Broadway tryouts, some work still needs to be done. Michael/Dorothy's love interest/co-star Julie (played by the lovely Lilli Cooper) could use a bit more motivation to explain her reactions at the show's big reveal. As she is currently written, I would expect her to be a bit more sympathetic towards an actor willing to do anything for a role.
Michael's 10 o'clock number, in which he thanks his alter ego for all she has imparted to him, drags the momentum of the show down. Michael's big reveal also fails to resonate.
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.
The pre-Broadway run of TOOTSIE continues through Oct. 14 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph. Tickets $35-$105. Call 800.775.2000