Tootsie: The Musical Review (Spoiler Free)

While in Chicago for some work activities, at the insistence of my awesome wife I went and saw the new musical remake of the movie Tootise.  Will the musical live up to the movie’s reputation and can it be a success on Broadway?  Read on to find out.

First, the good:

  • The story is familiar, yet new.  If you’ve seen the movie then you know the major plot points that will be hit.  But the musical takes an updated approach to the original storyline.  Instead of landing a job on a TV soap opera, Dorothy Michaels lands a supporting role in a new Broadway musical.  Instead of building up the character over time, as a serialized soap opera can do, the musical is changed so that Dorothy has a more prominent role and reputation.  It makes the story a bit more modern and also allows for some amusing inside jokes for Broadway fans.
  • The funny is FUNNY.  It’s been a while since a musical comedy really made me laugh.  This did so several times.  A few of the songs are hilarious, but there are some genuinely hilarious scenes.  And almost every song has at least one line that will make you laugh for a good while.  There is a single exception of a joke that is so bad, the audience actually groans (and not in a good way), hopefully that part gets a rewrite soon.
  • The cast is fantastic.  I can’t recall a more spot-on cast.  I’ve loved many shows but maybe wanted to recast one person.  After this show I didn’t want to change a single role.  This is a fantastic ensemble and everyone gets a chance to shine.  Of special note: Sarah Stiles as Sandy deviates the most from the movie role but brings life to a character so much that I want an entire musical just about her.  And Andy Grotelueschen as Jeff kills every scene he’s in–I wanted more of him as well.

Unfortunately, there’s also some bad:

  • Inconsistent pacing.  As I mentioned, the funny parts are genuinely funny–but there are also a number of dramatic moments that just aren’t.  That’s okay, you can have serious moments in a musical comedy.  But while some of those serious songs have a joke or two thrown in, there are about 4 songs that just bring the show to a screeching halt.  You can feel the energy leave the stage.  And these are in such stark contrast to the other songs that they are hard to get over.
  • Glossing over the whole feminist theme.  When Tootsie came out it was a timely discussion of the treatment of women versus men, but thirty years later we’re in a different phase of the conversation.  Not to say we’ve fixed the things we talked about 30 years ago, but there’s more to talk about and the show completely glosses over those topics.  They’re acknowledged as taking place in our modern #MeToo world, but not really dealt with in a satisfying or realistic way.  Granted, this is a light musical comedy, but it’s the kind of topic you either handle well or need to ignore, you can’t just dip a toe in.
  • The ending just…sucks.  I get that the musical wanted to be true to the movie and its major plot points.  But this is a musical comedy.  You have to end on high energy.  Other shows that have had a lackluster ending tack on a high energy song at the end so you at least leave with a spring in your step.  Tootsie does not and that’s not good for word of mouth.  The last few scenes are pretty serious without many laughs.  Ending with that kind of down energy will make people forget a lot of the fun they had in the show.  I hope they find a way to fix this.

Tootise is headed to Broadway in spring of 2019, meaning it’s positioned for a serious run at some Tony Awards.  I think some of the cast may get nominated, but the show in its current iteration is going to be decimated by Moulin Rouge.  If they can find a way to fix the pacing and bring more humor into the downbeat songs, then maybe they’ll be able to make it a race.  But for now I give it 7 out of 10 on stage wardrobe changes.


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