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Review: TOOTSIE at Des Moines Performing Arts

This production runs for a limited time through February 13

Tootsie (Non-Equity)
The Cast of "Tootsie"
a??a??Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Broadway is back at Des Moines Performing Arts. While this last fall we were treated got a glimpse into having the Willis Broadway Series this last fall with an engagement of "The Bands Visit," the series returned on February 8 with a hilarious production of "Tootsie." Like the title of the act 1 finale, you could say the opening of "Tootsie" makes the return of the Willis Broadway Series "Unstoppable," with 6 shows and a concert scheduled between now and the end of August.

Like the movie that "Tootsie" is based on, it tells the story of actor Michael Dorsey. When we meet him at the top of the show, we see his career on Broadway falling apart. This is due to him being an actor who is hard to work with. This changes when he is running lines with his ex Sandy, who is preparing to audition for the nurse's role in a sequel musical to "Romeo and Julie," where Juliet doesn't die. After running lines with her, he gets an idea. If he were to audition as a woman, he would get into the audition and maybe book the role. When he gets cast as Dorothy Michaels, the woman he is pretending to be, it sets him off on a journey that puts him at odds with what he wants as a person and what is best for Dorothy.

Usually, when I'm doing reviews of shows, I don't like to comment on the script or music from the show, but for me, they both had some noticeable issues. I'll start with the music. While the songs are catchy and give the script a welcome boost of energy from time to time, they don't stick with you after the show is done. The script had some funny moments, but I found it dragging through the second part of the first act. While neither of these ruined the show or the evening, it at times made the show feel longer than it really was.

If you have seen some of the photos and publicity videos of the Broadway production, you will notice that the Broadway set by David Rockwell has been reimagined for the tour by Christine Peters. For the most part, these changes I felt pulled the audience into the show surprisingly. I enjoyed watching the cast of the show move parts of the set around through the evening. It gave the audience the feeling they were watching a group of traveling actors telling the story of Michael Dorsey. The storytelling through the set became one of my favorite parts of the evening.

Part of the fun of the evening is the cast, who leaves the audience in stitches multiple times through the night. Leading the cast in the role of Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels is Drew Becker. I appreciated that he chose to have two different voices for Dorothy and Michal. This lets the audience be in on his character's choice to pretend to be a woman while also allowing the audience to see how people could have fallen for his ruse. The humor he brings to the show keeps the audience in stitches.

One of my favorite performances of the night came from Payton Reilly as Sandy Lester, who happens to be Dorsey's ex. She had terrific comedic timing, which was a perfect fit for her character's patter song that continues to pop up throughout the show. Another comedic performance came from Jared David Michael Grant as Jeff Slater, Michael's roommate, who had one of my favorite numbers of the night in "Jeff Sums it Up." The joy his character gets during the song as he sums up for his roommate what all has happened was a treat for the audience.

For me, the show's heart comes in Ashley Alexandra's character Julie. Her character quickly becomes friends with Dorothy, and when Michael lets his guard down and kisses her, it leads her character down the struggle of having fallen in love with someone who isn't real. The way she plays the hurt it causes at different times through the second act had the audience rooting that things would turn out ok for her character.

While there may have been some issues with the script and the music, all the elements come together to make "Tootsie" a delightful show. If you are looking for something light to take in during this Valentine's weekend or looking for an alternative to watching the Super Bowl, then Des Moines Performing Arts limited run of "Tootsie" must close on February 13, so get your tickets ASAP. To find out more about this run of "Tootsie," visit

Review was written by DC Felton
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From This Author - DC Felton

David Felton has been involved in theatre since his middle school production of The Wizard of Oz. Throughout high school he stayed onstage, and once he got to college he started exploring thebackst... (read more about this author)

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