When “Tootsie,” a Columbia Motion Pictures film based on a book by Don McGuire and Larry Gelbart, came out in 1982, it received 10 Academy Award nominations. Adapted by Gelbart with uncredited assistance from Elaine May, Barry Levinson and Murray Schisgal, its cast had Dustin Hoffman starring and included, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr and Bill Murray.
The movie, a tale of how an actor who has trouble finding a job adopts a female persona in order to land a role, presents a myriad of riotous scenarios.
Although really funny, the telling point of the film was that the Library of Congress decided to preserve it in the National Film Registry in 1998 because it was culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Given the current culturally and historically significant climate of women’s issues, “Tootsie” as a musical comedy with a clever book by Robert Horn (“13”) and witty and insightful score by Tony winner David Yazbek (“The Band’s Visit), promises to be a Tony winner when it goes to Broadway Spring of 2019.
Nods to the “Me Too” and other concerns are scattered throughout the musical from a show director guiding a female cast member off stage while saying “I’m not touching you” to a character noting that female actors are paid less than the males.
Instead of following the film and having the lead don female garb to tryout and land a soap opera role, the musical has Michael Dorsey snagging the role of Dorothy Michaels, Juliet’s nurse, in a crazy adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet.” In cahoots with Juliet, he takes over the show to make a feminist statement and promote the character of Dorothy.
It is hard to picture the role played any better than it is currently handled by Tony Award nominee Santino Fontana (“Cinderella”) who nails the character’s angst and Dorothy’s feminine side while holding onto his own masculinity, his natural attraction to Juliet (Julie Nichols) plus his feelings for his girlfriend, Sandy Lester (Sarah Stiles).
Lilli Cooper is well cast as Julie, innocent of her attraction to Dorsey as Dorothy. Stiles is amazing as Sandy who sings a rapid-fire accounting of all her problems in a style reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan.
The rest of the cast is also sterling with Broadway actors John Behlmann playing Max Van Horn, Andy Groteluesche as Jeff Slater, Julie Halston as Rita Marshall and Michael McGrath as Stan Fields and theater, film and TV actor as Ron Carlisle.
Superb choreography by Denis Jones, gorgeous costumes by William Ivey Long and spot-on set design by David Rockwell are all worthy of Broadway nominations.
Just as important, under the fine direction of Scott Elis the show moves at an energetic pace that enhance comedic and startling moments.
Lucky for Chicago audiences it is following in the steps of such other Broadway hits as “Kinky Boots,” previewing in our city before heading to New York. It is currently showing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.
DETAILS: “Tootsie” is at the Cadilac Palace theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago, through Oct. 14, 2018. Running time: 2 hrs, 20 min. with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (800) 775-2000 and visit Broadway In Chicago.
For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago