Broadway Review: TOOTSIE (Marquis Theater)

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by Harvey Perr on April 29, 2019

in Theater-New York


I’m here to sing the praises of all those musical comedy freaks who have been jonesing for a contemporary musical that will bring back, in some new form, the golden age of Broadway musicals, because one has come their way. You know the kind I mean. Each song, complete with entrancing melody and lyrics witty and romantic, different from the other, beautifully and often comically sung, with great characters, perfectly cast and each with a special moment. The show is Tootsie.

The title is familiar because it is based on the famed movie in which Dustin Hoffman was an irascible actor, Michael Dorsey, who couldn’t get a job because he drove directors crazy with his demands and who, on becoming Dorothy Michaels for a part in a soap opera, learns the difference between men and women.

This time around (and if you’re doing a musical version adapted from another source, there are bound to be changes), Michael doesn’t get a part in a soap opera but in a pretty bad Broadway musical where he turns a small character part into a leading lady.

And if you thought nobody could replace Hoffman, then you weren’t as prepared, as I was, for Santino Fontana, whose performance in an underappreciated revival of Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs encouraged me to follow his career, waiting for the breakthrough role that would make him a star, and, voila, that time has come. He’s funny, he sings with extravagant expressiveness, he’s real.

And he is surrounded by a group of pros who offer him generous support while making gains all their own: Andy Grotelueschen as his playwright pal who totally understands the concept that less is more when it comes to reacting to others and makes of his “Jeff Sums It Up” a sheer delight; Lilli Cooper as the woman Michael falls in love with who has a swell bluesy number in “Gone, Gone, Gone;” Michael McGrath as an all-business agent and Reg Rogers as a pretentious director and Julie Halston as an all-accomodating producer, although somewhat underused, all make vivid impressions; and John Behlmann as a seriously untalented cast member who becomes besotted with Dorothy and stops the show with “This Thing.”

Best of all is a razzle-dazzle Sarah Stiles as the actress who loves Michael too much and unknowingly loses the part she’s dreaming of to this jerk she adores and has a number, “What’s Gonna Happen,” which she delivers, as a thread through the show, in a style that is utterly nuts and bewitching and which predicts a future in which she will become a Broadway fixture.

The sprightly score is by David (The Band’s Visit) Yazbek. The rich and clever book is by Robert Horn. And David Rockwell’s set design joyously and colorfully evokes a cockeyed Manhattan. It could be said that Scott Ellis’s direction takes too seriously what is designed to be parodied but he does keep things moving. Yes, this is the kind of musical comedy which will remind you of all those shows that celebrated New York, musicals like Promises, Promises and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and, yes, I’ll go out on a limb here, Guys and Dolls.

This is what tourists come to Broadway for — to get a taste of what it’s like when pros turn on the heat. And Fontana and Styles give a shiny patina to that old star-is-born trope. Will it change your life? I don’t know about that. But it won’t leave you short-changed even at Broadway prices.

photos by Matthew Murphy

Marquis Theater, 1535 Broadway
open run
for tickets, call 877.250.2929 or visit Ticketmaster
for more info, visit Tootsie


Win Blevins May 2, 2019 at 10:30 am


Win Blevins May 2, 2019 at 10:32 am

Harvey, thanks for this terrific review. Loved the movie, HUNGRY to see the movie.

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