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BWW Review: TOOTSIE at Dolby Theatre

The Production Runs Through May 15 in Hollywood Then Moves to Costa Mesa

BWW Review: TOOTSIE at Dolby Theatre
Drew Becker in TOOTSIE

The musical TOOTSIE, based on the 1982 film of the same name, is a contemporary take on an old trope: a man unconvincingly passes himself off as a woman, everyone in his world buys it, and hilarity tries to ensue. It's been done countless times, going back past Shakespeare to the ancient Greeks. That doesn't mean it always works, however, and TOOTSIE is a mixed bag.

The premise: Struggling New York actor Michael Dorsey (Drew Becker) disguises himself as a woman (easily renamed Dorothy Michaels) in order to secure a role in an updated version of Romeo and Juliet. He becomes wildly successful, men begin to desire him, and he starts to fall for his costar, Julie (Ashley Alexandra), leading to misunderstandings and mishaps.

When the film was released, it was a THING. Directed by Sydney Pollack with an all-star cast (Dustin Hoffman, Teri Garr, Jessica Lange, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Geena Davis), it received 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Song and two for Best Supporting Actress (which Lange won). Stephen Bishop's theme song, "It Might Be You," hit the Top 30 and spent two weeks at #1 on the adult contemporary chart. The film grossed almost $180 million, which translates to over half a BILLION in today's currency. Again: It was a THING.

BWW Review: TOOTSIE at Dolby Theatre
Ashley Alexandra in TOOTSIE

But things have changed since 1982 so this is a thornier project now, and while there have been some updates to the story, contemporary matters are not addressed in a respectful enough way to give it a pass. Michael is called out pretty consistently (once he's found out), not just for fooling his friends and coworkers but for taking roles away from women, but the #MeToo movement is too slight a presence, and how both it and trans issues are handled seems a little too much like they were boxes to be checked versus issues to be deftly and delicately approached. This is a romantic comedy, so it doesn't need to be hella political, but when wading into waters this deep, they do need to addressed more thoroughly. Perhaps a trans character would help, or Michael coming to understand the community more deeply so that he understands the full implications of his actions.

It's not mortally offensive, it's just too little to be effective and, more importantly, a missed opportunity.

A possibly bigger problem is that the story, while slight, isn't served by its musical score. Few of the songs land and are almost immediately forgotten. (Even the love theme, "Who Are You?" which should be rousing, falls flat.) Perhaps that's why the central actors often seem uninvested, and if they're not invested, how can the audience be? The script offers better material to the supporting players, with Payton Reilly, as Michael's aspiring-actress friend Sandy, and Adam du Plessis, as an arrogant director, stealing every scene they're in. The ensemble is aces, buoying mundane numbers with much-needed energy ("The Most Important Night of My Life" is a knockout). The script by Robert Horn is amusing enough but it's undermined by the lackluster music in addition to too many obvious jokes that fall flat. The modest scope of the story is not aided by its 2 1/2-hour run time (including an intermission). It's not director David Solomon's fault that the plot is so thin, and he does his best to keep things moving, but it still ends up feeling stretched.

BWW Review: TOOTSIE at Dolby Theatre
The TOOTSIE ensemble

When this show opened on Broadway in 2019, it was a big success, earning 10 Tony nominations, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical, and winning Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (for Santino Fontana) and Best Book for a Musical (for Horn), though it did receive criticism from the transgender community. That criticism should have been addressed before hitting the road. While TOOTSIE isn't a Plain Jane, it also isn't the knockout diva it needs to be.

TOOTSIE is performed at the Dolby Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, through May 15. Tickets can be purchased by calling (800) 982-2787 or going to

It will play the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, May 31 to June 12. Buy tickets at or call (714) 556-2787.

Photo credits: Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

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