National Touring Company of TOOTSIE Reawakens Theatre
After more than eighteen months of a pandemic induced shutdown, theatres throughout the nation are reawakening. With that comes a new normal of the theatre going experience as public health protocols are instituted to ensure the safety of those in front and behind the curtain. Last night’s flawless reopening of Orlando’s Dr. Phillips Center should be the model for other theaters to follow with the new national touring company of TOOTSIE electrifying the stage.
Winner of two 2019 Tony Awards, TOOTSIE joins the myriad of film to stage adaptations of late. Based on the 1982 Dustin Hoffman film comedy, TOOTSIE follows Michael Dorsey, an out of work actor who finds success after donning the guise of a woman (Dorothy Michaels). However the TOOTSIE we see on stage is not the Tootsie of forty years ago. With an updated book by Robert Horn and music/lyrics by David Yazbek, TOOTSIE is reimagined in a modern day framework retaining much of the comedy in its relevance.
What makes this non-equity tour shine is an exceptionally talented cast that instantly makes you realize why there is nothing like the shared experience of attending live theatre.
For a musical comedy, TOOTSIE deals with many complex issues. Through the persona of Dorothy Michaels and the juxtaposition that ensues, conversations are opened about gender equality, fame, harassment, sexuality and self-worth. As Dorothy Michaels’ celebrity grows (a TV soap opera diva in the film is changed to a Broadway star for the musical) the ruse of impersonating a woman begins to have its consequences on all those around.
Drew Becker is spot-on as Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels and embodies both characters with a relatable humanity that propels conflict and humor of the situation. Becker handles the vocal complexities of playing both characters with ease and finds just the right balance of not making Dorothy Michaels into a caricature. Becker’s authenticity gives the supporting cast much to work with. As his conflicted love interest, vocal powerhouse Ashley Alexandra is sensational while Paton Reilly (Sandy Lester) and Jared David Michael Grant (Jeff Slater) steal every scene they are in.
For all that TOOTSIE gets right, it is a very imperfect musical lacking any subtext with most of the songs encumbering the story instead of moving it forward. However with eighteen months in the theatre abyss, TOOTSIE reminds us of the importance of theatre as it not only entertains but also opens up conversations of complex social issues which moves us all forward as a society.
TOOTSIE runs through November 14, 2021 at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 445 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando, FL. Visit drphillipscenter.org for tickets and more information.