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BWW Review: TOOTSIE National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center


The classic 1982 movie gets a very musical update.

BWW Review: TOOTSIE National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center

Based on Sydney Pollack's 1982 Academy Award-winning film of the same name, Tootsie follows Michael Dorsey, a skilled actor with a talent for not keeping a job. Desperate and out-of-work, Michael makes a last-ditch effort at making his dreams come disguising himself as actress Dorothy Michaels. In a meteoric rise to Broadway stardom, Dorothy soon has audiences falling at her feet while Michael (disguised as Dorothy) is falling for his co-star, Julie Nichols. It isn't long before Michael realizes that maintaining his greatest acting success is going to be much harder than he expected.

After having its out-of-town tryout in Chicago, Illinois, Tootsie opened on April 23rd, 2019 at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway, where it earned 11 Tony Award nominations (including Best Musical). However, the show sadly didn't end up doing so well in the long run as it ended up closing on January 5th, 2020 after 293 performances at a loss of $10,000,000. Luckily, it is now out on tour, and Durham just so happens to be its second stop.

Although this national touring production that is currently playing at the Durham Performing Arts Center through October 24th is non-equity. Most audience members wouldn't be able to notice the difference between equity and non-equity talent as there is sometimes little to no difference in skill level and professionalism. Non-equity tours usually involve smaller sets and fewer actors than you typically find in Equity productions. Not to mention that most of (if not, all of) the cast aren't members of Actor's Equity...yet. With that being said, I still found this touring production to be very well put together.

Director Dave Solomon, who worked as an associate on the Broadway production, provides some slick staging which involves a Greek chorus that appears in some solo numbers to provide backup (quite effectively) as well as help move set pieces on stage and off. The cast he's assembled all does justice to the great material they're working with from Robert Horn's script to David Yazbeck's musical score. Not to mention that they also do well with the energetic choreography by Denis Jones. Drew Becker gives a terrific performance as Michael Dorsey. In the beginning, he is full of determination to find himself employed as an actor. Though as the plot unfolds, he is able to learn about the consequences of his scheme. Whenever Drew is on stage as Dorothy Michaels, he looks and sounds fabulous. Credit for the looks must go to costume designer (and North Carolina native) William Ivey Long, make-up designer Angelina Avallone, and (the recently deceased) hair and wig designer Paul Huntley.

As Michael's roommate, Jeff Slater, who is also an unsuccessful playwright, Jared David Michael Grant plays it straight though still remains to be pretty funny. As Michael's love interest, Julie Nichols, Ashley Alexandra offers a likeable presence as well as a killer belt in two of her big numbers: 'I'm Alive' in Act I and 'Gone, Gone, Gone' in Act II. As Michael and Jeff's friend, struggling actress Sandy Lester, Payton Reilly is hilarious. She especially nails her character's big song, 'What's Gonna Happen', where she has to perform some very fast paced lyrics. Lukas James Miller is a memorable highlight as Max Van Horn, an actor who ends up falling in love with Dorothy Michaels. Adam du Plessis is perfectly flamboyant Ron Calisle, the director/choreographer behind the fictional Broadway musical being put on in the plot.

If you're a fan of the original movie, this stage musical adaptation should prove to be a worthy companion without ever feeling like a carbon copy as it perfectly updates the plot to present day. If you're not too familiar with the original movie, you should still have a great time watching this. It'll be sure to leave you smiling from beginning to end.

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From This Author Jeffrey Kare