Review: TOOTSIE Sparkles at Theatre by the Sea

Tootsie runs through July 20th.

By: Jun. 30, 2024
Review: TOOTSIE Sparkles at Theatre by the Sea
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The musical version of the well-known film Tootsie opened on Broadway in 2019, continuing the trend of movies from the 80s finding new life as stage musicals.  The stage version follows a similar plot, wherein struggling actor Michael Dorsey decides to disguise himself as a woman after burning all his bridges within the industry.  The plot requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, since as ‘Dorothy Michaels’, a middle-aged woman who is described as “built like a tractor”, Dorsey manages to find overwhelming success in an industry that usually rewards youth and beauty, but the actors in Theatre by the Sea’s production are talented and charismatic enough that you want to stick around a see how it turns out.

Michael Dorsey (Kyle Nicholas Anderson) is a wanna-be actor with a huge chip on his shoulder.  He’s talented, but has a tendency to butt heads with directors, try to rewrite scripts unprompted and generally piss everyone off. After getting fired from a musical, followed by a combative meeting with his agent, he’s running lines with his friend Sandy (Brooke Jacob), when he has the idea that he could disguise himself as a woman and start fresh.  Somehow, this crazy plan works, and he lands a part in a new musical based on Romeo and Juliet.  From there, people can’t seem to get enough of Dorothy, and Micheal is forced to choose between success based on a lie and coming clean and possibly losing everything.

What this production has going for it is an exceptional cast.  Kyle Nicholas Anderson, as Michael/Dorothy manages to create two distinct characters, and despite the fact that he’s deceiving almost everyone around him, you still root for him.  Joann Gilliam is fantastic as Julie, Michael’s co-star and love interest.  Her voice is exceptional and she manages to bring a relatable sweetness to her character, without being saccharine.  Brooke Jacob as Michael’s friend Sandy also manages to steal every scene she’s in with over-the-top theatrics.  The other scene stealer of the night is Jadon Webster as Max Van Horn, a handsome moron and former reality star who now has aspirations to act, but who delivers his lines in a way that makes you wonder if he actually knows what words mean.  Webster manages to make this cliched character hilarious to watch, and somehow well-rounded, even though his personality seems to be mostly based on having washboard abs.

This isn’t an exact retelling of the movie with songs added.  Certain plot elements have been updated and changed, and without specifying a time period, it seems to take place in the present day.  However, there do seem to be subtle nods to the 80s in the scenic design (Kyle Dixon) and costumes (Dana Pinkston).  Given that some aspects of the show were changed a bit, it seems like there are a few missed opportunities to go even further and consider gender and relationships and how they work together.  Because some plot development is sacrificed in favor of songs, which are largely forgettable, the end result feels a bit superficial.  Exploring gender issues in a comedy seems like it would possibly suck the fun out of an enjoyable evening, but done well, it could also give a depth to the production that feels conspicuously absent.

The talent and commitment of the cast and ensemble make this a laugh-out-loud production worth watching.  Theatre by the Sea have also updated their outdoor courtyard area within the past couple years, and have created what feels like a lovely, bucolic oasis.  It’s a great place to spend a summer night.

Tootsie runs through July 20th (including a show on July 4th) at Theatre By The Sea, 364 Cards Pond Road, Wakefield, RI. Tickets available at or by calling (401)-782-TKTS

Photo: Kyle Nicholas Anderson (Dorothy Michaels) with Joann Gilliam (Julie Nichols) and Jadon Webster (Max Von Horn) and the cast of TOOTSIE at Theatre By The Sea. Photo by Mark Turek


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