Following in the footsteps of NETWORK and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, the musical comedy Tootsie continues this Broadway season's welcome trend of adapting classic, decades-old source material into brand new stage pieces that examine familiar stories through a contemporary lens. It's also a flat-out laff-riot from start to finish, featuring a cast packed with expert stage comedians landing bookwriter Robert Horn's archly-humored gags, enhanced by David Yazbek's muscularly-rhythmed jazz score that propels his attractively glib lyrics, occasionally giving way to sparklingly sincere poetics.
TOOTSIE Broadway Reviews
Tootsie tells the story of a talented but difficult actor who struggles to find work until one show-stopping act of desperation lands him the role of a lifetime - as the star of a new Broadway musical.
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 music 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, Tony Award nomineeSARAH STILES as Sandy Lester, John Behlmann as Max Van Horn, Andy Grotelueschen as Jeff Slater, Julie Halston as Rita Marshall, Tony Award winner Michael McGrath as Stan Fields, and Tony Award nominee Reg Rogers as Ron Carlisle.
Let's see what the critics had to say!
Comedy rarely flows as smoothly as it does here. The secret is more than the book; it's the songs. Mr. Yazbek is one of the few composer-lyricists working today who can set jokes to music and make them pay. The most obvious instance in "Tootsie" is "What's Gonna Happen," a showstopping patter number for Michael's ex-girlfriend, the neurotic Sandy (Sarah Stiles). In a tumble of words reminiscent of "Model Behavior" from Mr. Yazbek's underrated score for "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," she goes well past that verge.
We may have reached the saturation point with stage adaptations of popular movies but I have to admit, "Tootsie" is quite a hoot. On the surface, it's a conventional musical with a conventional narrative arc and fairly conventional songs. But it's unconventionally funny. And thanks to an A-list cast of comedians, it's the comedy that makes this one sing!
While Yazbek's jazzy score doesn't reach the heights of his work in "The Band's Visit," there are a few really terrific numbers. You won't leave "Tootsie" humming, but you will leave laughing - which is even better.
Robert Horn (book) and Tony-winner David Yazbek (score) have a high old time poking fun at theatrical rituals - the mortifying auditions, the grueling rehearsals, the agonizing openings, the backstage heartbreak - in this affectionate sendup of a Broadway musical (replacing the movie's soap opera setting) and its uniquely unlikely star. Director Scott Ellis leaves nothing and no one unscathed in staging this satire of a Broadway-bound musical called "Juliet's Nurse." From the gaudy Renaissance costumes (by William Ivey Long) to the over-the-top choreography (from Denis Jones), the creatives nail it.
Just when you thought the old-fashioned musical comedy was dead, along comes an adaptation of a 37-year-old movie about sexism in the entertainment industry to breathe new life into it. David Yazbek and Robert Horn's Tootsie has the big dance numbers, frothy score, rat-a-tat jokes, and, in Santino Fontana, the kind of star turn from a triple threat that made the American musical such a pop cultural force fifty years ago. Directed with Swiss watch precision by Scott Ellis, Tootsie is an unexpected, charming delight.
The show stands or falls largely on the startlingly plausible shoulders of Santino Fontana as Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels -- and there's no question that this reliable star of such musicals as R&H's Cinderella has made a break-out, star-making turn here that turns him into a leading player.
All of this is directed with great spirit and charm by Scott Ellis, and it's held together by the extraordinary Fontina. More than just a marvelous physical feat - he changes personas and clothes with quicksilver grace - the performance never soft pedals Michael's steamroller ambition, even as Fontana makes us feel the character's desperation and frustration. Which is to say: You root for Michael even if he's sometimes an immense jerk.
There really is much to like about "Tootsie." Horn's book is chock-a-block with digressive one-liners that tickled me pink when I first saw the show in Chicago and worked their magic all over again on Broadway. Dorsey, a pill who taunts directors with his ego, has a lovable deadpanning roommate, Jeff (Andy Grotelueschen) and a wacky best frenemy named Sandy (Sarah Stiles), and this boffo comedic pair, along with John Behlmann's clueless bit of beefcake, keep the laughs rolling.
This embraceably funny concoction goes by the title of "Tootsie," which also was the title of its eternally endearing 1982 film source, starring Dustin Hoffman as a temperamental actor so desperate for a part he disguises himself as a woman to get it. The mantle of Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels has been passed down on this occasion to the sublime Santino Fontana, who not only gets to strut his farcical stuff, but also sings, amazingly well, in two registers.
"Tootsie," the new Broadway musical by David Yazbek (music and lyrics) and Robert Horn (book) that opened Tuesday at the Marquis Theatre, is a marvel of movie-to-musical reinvention. As much an update as it is an adaptation, the show acknowledges that gender politics have undergone significant changes in the last four decades while embracing what makes this loony tale still so much fun today. But what really stands out is the wit. This "Tootsie" yields more laughs per minute than any musical since "The Book of Mormon." Yazbek and Horn are like Woody Allen in the early days, only campier and completely besotted with Broadway.
Throughout, it's all great fun, from the sick one-liners and cringeworthy puns to enough inside theater references to put "Something Rotten" to shame. (The opening night song "The Most Important Night of My Life" will never top "Another Op'nin', Another Show," but it's still a delight). But as in the film, there are important take-aways, lessons Dorothy imparts to Michael about the trials women face. When he declares that "being a woman is no job for a man," you sense overwhelming agreement from the women in the audience. But you get the feeling the men are at least listening.
Tootsie is full of terrific moments: Yazbek's delightfully pessimistic lyrics (one song repeats the line "you fucked it up," to great effect); supporting turns from the sidesplittingly funny Sarah Stiles as hopelessly insecure neighbor Sandy ("My phone no longer recognizes my face I.D. unless I'm crying!") and perennial scene-stealer Julie Halston as producer Rita, über-chic in an Ann Richards-white wig and a brocade Jackie O-inspired suit ("Dorothy, I'm rich. Not in family or friends. In money, the good rich"); lush-and magically magnetic-costumes by William Ivey Long (they go from the Renaissance to 1950s Cinecittà glam with a mere twirl of a skirt); and, most important, a genuinely believable, winning performance by Fontana, who's so darn convincing as Dorothy that when he starts to sing as Michael it simply sounds wrong.
Is this a potential addition to the list of classic Broadway musicals? No; but Tootsie is fast and funny. Very funny, with a rapid stream of jokes and gags and some of the most mirthful choreography since those Mormon boys went to Uganda. Plus, it's got no fewer than five skillful comedy performances. After months in the mirthless Broadway musical desert, let's be appreciative of the evening's accomplishments.
The songs are peppy, if not especially remarkable, somewhat in the vein of Yazbek's earlier shows like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. There's nothing as swoony as Omar Sharif here. But Yazbek shows his gift for writing for character, with Sandy's high-anxiety What's Gonna Happen and Jeff's dry, cackling Jeff Sums It Up. A lot of Horn's jokes are groaners, but some of them aren't and the script is packed with so many that the laughs-per-minute ratio stays pretty high. The cast is a treat, particularly the supporting actors, whose characters are written more playfully and at times more cogently than Michael or Julie, though Fontana is working overtime, backwards and forwards, in heels and out, to make Dorothy more than a caricature and Michael more than a jerk. He's even found a distinct singing voice for Dorothy, a fleecy contralto.
You'll have just enough time during the false-start opening moments of director Scott Ellis' wonderful new Tootsie to ponder such things, and then the musical and its star Santino Fontana grab hold and don't let go. It's not without a few runs in its stockings, but this Tootsie is a delight, a not-quite-blind date that plays out so much better than you could have imagined.
Let's hear it for Tootsie, the laugh-out-loud funniest musical of the Broadway season. Yes, it's another tune-filled spin on a hit movie - Pretty Woman, King Kong, the list goes on. But this one is actually good - hell, better than good, it's musical-comedy heaven. Using the beloved 1982 movie with Dustin Hoffman as a launching pad, the singing-dancing Tootsie still features an unemployed asshole of an actor who has to dress up as a woman to land a part. But the film's casual sexism (it celebrates a dude who finds himself) has been updated for the #MeToo era, going from retro to woke and slamming the door on patrimony with a mighty Times Up.
The ace creative team of writer Robert Horn, composer-lyricist David Yazbek and director Scott Ellis respect the footprint of the movie. But the explosions of laughter the musical elicits come chiefly from the ingenious ways in which the screenplay by Larry Gelbart and Murray Shisgal - plus the countless other hired hands that took a pass during the film's famously difficult conception - has been reimagined as a subversive comedy about gender roles specifically tailored for our times. And no, don't roll your eyes and wince about another gem from a less enlightened decade sacrificing its luster to anxious PC tampering. This is a savvy update that manages to combine awareness of the evolution in gender politics with insouciant wit, a playful spirit and an invigorating streak of good-natured vulgarity.
Happily, this thoroughly modern update is a genuine thrill, mostly thanks to Robert Horn's smart book, which excises a lot of the more cringe-y aspects on the original comedy, and instead invites audiences to laugh at Michael Dorsey. The show begins with Michael interrupting the opening number to complain about his character's motivation, for goodness sake! Packed with jokes, the show is completely ridiculous, but it totally works.
The most glorious words in the English language, the director of the show-within-a-show in 42nd Street once declared, are musical comedy. But few musicals on Broadway these days live up to the second part of that term: They evoke fond chuckles of appreciation, but they don't suck the laughs from your belly. Enter Tootsie, all dolled up in a red sequined gown, to drag out the real comic goods. Let other shows mope or brood or inspire, as some of them do very well. This one is out to give you a good time, and that's just what it does. Tootsie rocks. Tootsie rolls. Tootsie pops.
All that said, the show is damn funny. The book, by Robert Horn, is jammed with laugh-out-loud one-liners, and Scott Ellis' direction allows those moments, and many others, to shine. The score, by Tony winner David Yazbek (The Band's Visit), and choreography by Denis Jones are light and lively. And William Ivey Long's costumes, including his recreation of Dustin Hoffman's iconic red sequined dress from the movie, are gorgeous, clever, and fresh.
Tootsie as a musical is a confusing mélange, and not for the sexual and romantic attractions and farce-heavy confusions it sets in motion by lead character Michael Dorsey's (Santino Fontana) cross-dressing. The Broadway version of the 1982 movie-which starred Dustin Hoffman as Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels-is both chaotic and apologetic, with a sharper and better book than it has music.
Fontana is pouring plenty of vigor and vocal vibrance into his role, but the truth is that Michael/Dorothy's charm falls pretty flat pretty fast. I found myself thinking of Andy Karl's similarly charismatic-and-self-absorbed performance as Phil Connors in Groundhog Day: Yes, the hero's a jerk. Yes, we know he's going to learn his lesson. But do we really want to dedicate our time to his lengthy, self-centered learning process - especially, in Tootsie, when the hero gets to spend so much of that process enjoying the spotlight? Despite its razzle-dazzle, Tootsie feels empty at the center. It's all but impossible to sympathize with the lead, and it's hard to be that interested in the woman he falls for.
The new Broadway musical Tootsie is a story of transformation in which an actor becomes a better man after passing himself off as a woman. Based on a beloved 1982 movie starring Dustin Hoffman, the show by David Yazbek and Robert Horn unleashes more zippy one-liners and corny double entendres than anyone could ever want. But the film's sweeter charms and magic have gone missing in the metamorphosis from the screen to the stage of the Marquis Theatre.
The good news is that book writer Robert Horn has not pulled a "Pretty Woman" and simply transcribed a screenplay, in this case, the Oscar-nominated 1982 script by Larry Gelbart, Murray Schisgal and many uncredited writers. Equally good, Horn supplies a few one-liners that are every bit as funny as the movie's zingers.
The writers deserve some credit for not blindly following the film and making changes to the setting and dialogue in an attempt to better suit it to a new medium, but the resulting product is substandard.
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