Review by Alan Jozwiak of the Musical “Tootsie” by Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati presented by TriHealth
I had a few misgivings about seeing Tootsie because the source material, the 1982 film of the same name, was created well before the #MeToo movement and increased cultural sensitivity towards the plight of women. Could the experience of Michael Dorsey (Drew Becker) dressing up as a man to act in a role written for a woman work in today’s climate?
Happily, my misgivings proved false.
Tootsie is a smart and funny musical. It tackles the cultural sensitivy issue head on through some very blunt and directed comments by Dorsey’s friend Jeff Slater (Jared David Michael Grant) and his love interest Julie Nichols (Ashley Alexandra). Even Dorsey himself calls out his bad behavior, making the ending of the muscial emotionally honest.
Strong Performances in Tootsie
This touring show has a strong capable cast. That strength starts with Drew Becker, who plays the role of Michael Dorsey and his female alter ego Dorothy Michaels. Becker deftly switches between the two characters with ease. Becker is also a skilled singer. He is able to sing in the voice of each character in a compelling way, an impressive feat. His comedic timing is also superb. He is able to deadpan to the audience in just the right amount to get the audience roaring.
Also strong is Ashley Alexandra who plays Julie Nichols. Alexandra has a great singing voice, delivering strong renditions of the songs “Who Are You?” and “There Was John.” Perhaps the most delightful thing about her performance is the wonderful chemistry she has with Becker’s female alter ego Dorothy Michaels. You can see their friendship flower over the course of the rehearsal process for their new musical. it makes the reveal that Dorothy Michaels is a man all the more devastating.
Many Strong Performances
Equally strong is Payton Reilly who play Dorsey’s friend/former lover Sandy Lester. Lester is a frustrated actress and Reilly beautifully captures the comedic craziness of this character. She also has an incredibly strong singing voice, doing the patter song about her frustrations as an actress “What’s Gonna Happen” to perfection. I know people like Sandy Lester and Reilly captures the essence of this character in a wonderful way.
I also liked the performance of Matthew Rella, who plays reality television show star-turned-actor Max Van Horn. Rella is a capable actor with great comedic timing and is able to get a laugh, with or without his shirt. He also has a strong singing voice, doing a great job with his solo song “The Thing.” It is a pity that such a strong actor has to work with material that makes his character the butt of every joke. We should be laughing along with Van Horn as he figures out his feelings for Dorothy Michaels, not at him and his deficits.
In terms of the technical aspects of the show, Tour Scenic Designer Christine Peters is able to create a convincing and workable apartment for Michael Dorsey. I love how the set pieces making up different walls of his apartment would fold open to reveal different parts of New York City. Also a standout is the William Ivey Long’s costuming for the musical-within-this-musical. Without giving too much away, the costuming is just a feast for the eyes.
Tootsie is a musical that I would recommend to audiences. Michael Dorsey proves that being a woman is no job for a man—with hilarious results. My only caveat is to expect a LOT of shtick during the second act, a little bit too much that was needed. Apart from the shtick, Tootsie is emotionally and intellectually satisfying with a wonderfully witty script that should please audiences.