Thursday, March 24, 2022

Broadway in Tucson Review: "Tootsie"

Filled with "did I really just hear/see that?!?" moments, "Tootsie" is a wildcard of a stage musical. Delivering consistent laughs, workmanlike choreography and inspired musical numbers, it's a modern splash in the face to Broadway traditions, in all the best of ways.

If it's possible to have a "woke" version of a story ingrained with such a problematic premise, this musical is just that. The plot acknowledges the inherent offensiveness to the LGBTQ community in Michael's ruses. The lighthearted, self-aware touch keeps the show tiptoeing on the socially acceptable edge of propriety.

"Tootsie" is also a comedy with something to say. The adaptation of the 1982 Dustin Hoffman film -- which has aged remarkably poorly -- is a wild and raucous dive into the insecurities inherent in acting, aging and navigating the dating world. 

The remarkably talented Drew Becker thrives in the multifaceted role as frustrated actor Michael Dorsey, who crafts the identity of Dorothy Michaels in an effort to land a role in a musical adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet."

This is Becker's show, but Alec Ruiz is in full-fledge scene burglar mode as Michael's cynical pal, Jeff, whose profanity-laden tirade of a number in "Jeff Sums it Up" is by far the show's best song, followed by the frantic "What's Gonna Happen" by the delightfully unhinged Payton Reilly as Sandy.

Also impressive are Leyla Ali in the role of Julie -- whom Michael pursues romantically both as Michael and Dorothy -- and Lukas James Miller as Max, the ditsy reality show star shoehorned into the musical-within-a-musical ina  cynical effort to sell tickets.

Ensemble members including Lexia Baldachino, Kyra Christopher and Michael Bingham are impressive in wildly entertaining background numbers, including a post-bow, full-cast satire of acting warmup techniques.

Good-natured while unabashedly vulgar, "Tootsie" is a riot of a time, bursting with cheer and razzle-dazzle.

"Tootsie" plays through March 27 at Centennial Hall. Buy tickets here.

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