Richard and I saw *Tootsie* on Broadway on 5/14/19. It’s a new musical comedy adaptation of the 1982 movie with music and lyrics by David Yazbeck and a book by Robert Horn, directed by Scott Ellis. I was initially skeptical when I heard about this project - - the movie is so perfect, why mess with it? But Yazbeck wrote the songs for *The Band’s Visit,* one of the most special new musicals I’ve seen in a while, and it was going to be directed by Scott Ellis, who I’ve always liked a lot. But the real turning point was hearing that the leading role was being played by Santino Fontana, who I’ve seen as Algernon in *The Importance of Being Earnest,* as the Prince in *Cinderella,* and as the young Moss Hart in *Act One.* He’s an extraordinary performer, strong and charming, with a sturdy, handsome voice. He seemed like the perfect actor to play the role right now.
I was happy to hear that they were updating the show for our MeToo moment. And if I needed another reason to spend $80 on this show, I got it when I heard that the great Julie Halston was going to be in it, playing the producer.
The show got off to a good start, the opening number was fun and cheeky and set the tone for the show, which is what an opening number needs to do. Richard and I were both a little bothered that the amplification was so LOUD, but we sort of got used to it. It might have been where we were sitting - - we were in the last row of the balcony and it felt like the speakers were about six feet away. Which is close.
They changed the setting of the show - - instead of a soap opera, they had Dorothy in a musical, a sort of silly sequel to *Romeo and Juliet,* with her playing the nurse. This worked, and it gave her (and the other characters) a reason to sing. The MeToo moments were well integrated and never felt preachy. Richard noticed that the songs were sort of forgettable, but I was impressed at how Yazbeck was able to write them in a way that allowed us to understand the words. Not always the case in a musical, and in this case, the words were really worth it.
Fontana was fantastic, he couldn’t have been better. I was especially impressed at how well he sang in his own voice, his baritone register, and how he sang in his Dorothy voice, which probably wasn’t as high as it seemed to us - - his ascents into falsetto were probably used sparingly, but he did them well, and just as crucially, his Dorothy voice had a feminine timbre. This is clearly a demanding role and he totally delivered. He’s not even 40 years old yet, and I hope he has many, many rewarding years of theatre ahead.
Lilli Cooper played Julie, the Jessica Lange character in the movie. She was lovely, she beautifully put across the emotional journey of her character. Sarah Stiles played Sandy, the Teri Garr role in the movie. She was adorable and was given a show-stopping number in her first scene. It sounded a little too much like a similar number in *Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,* a truly lousy musical adaptation from 2010, and sure enough, Yazbeck wrote the songs for that show too. But Stiles nailed the number, that’s the most important thing.
There are few things in this world more rewarding than seeing Julie Halston get applause with a line reading. She does it in every show, at least once. She got two opportunities in this show, they were both priceless. She’s a comic genius, no one can do what she does.
Richard loved the show more than I did, and I liked it a lot. He said he hadn’t laughed that hard in a show in a long time, and it was a joy to hear him laugh, it always is. My reaction was a little more guarded, and I don’t know why. Something about the show didn’t quite deliver, and I don’t know what it was. It might be that I simply love the movie too much and didn’t think the musical adaptation came close to matching the quality of the original. But the good thing is that I can go back to the movie whenever I want. It’s there on the shelf.