A scene from the touring musical version of "Tootsie"

Review: Touring 'Tootsie' Wins Thanks to Great Cast

Will Demers READ TIME: 3 MIN.

A difficult but talented actor is starting his next gig, another Broadway musical by a "famous" producer and choreographer. Clashing with said producer by way of suggesting too many changes and adding a backstory to his character gets him fired. His neurotic girlfriend and his bestie surprise him on his 40th birthday with a party and a list of things he was supposed to accomplish by 40 written when he was 19. In the musical version of the hit comedy classic "Tootsie," Michael Dorsey's (Drew Becker) troubles are just beginning.

When his best friend and roommate Jeff (Matt Kurzyniec) shows him the list Michael is downtrodden, and when his girlfriend Sandy (Payton Reilly) regales them both with tales of her latest audition, he decides to try his hand at the new show – except, he was fired by the producer. So, he dresses as a woman to get a part, and "she" nabs the lead. Based on the 1982 film directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Dustin Hoffman in the title role, this show leans into the Michael/Dorothy character as one would expect, but drops the ball a bit on his love interest, Julie Nichols (a delightful Ashley Alexandra), favoring more comedic moments than pathos.

But as the comedy is front and center, it does provide some hilarious moments, especially between Becker and Kurzyniec. But it's Reilly who nearly steals the show as Sandy, with her hysterical delivery. And as a reality star turned Broadway actor Max Van Horn, Matthew Rella gives his all to the self-absorbed pretty boy who actually falls for Dorothy. You just have to see the scene where he reveals a tattoo to Dorothy and Jeff walks in; it's pure comedy gold.

What the story lacks in cohesive narrative it makes up for in a strong supporting cast, albeit somewhat underused. If there was actually a moment where Michael got the idea to suddenly switch genders it happened so quickly that the moment is lost, and the reasons aren't at all clear.

David Yazbek ("The Full Monty," "The Band's Visit") serves up some pretty generic fare in the musical numbers, but this cast is all in, especially going through the motions of the choreography process. Of the numbers, "Opening Number" and "Unstoppable" are the most memorable. But "Tootsie" is fun to watch, because the cast is so solid. Becker is fascinating to watch as he flips from Michael to Dorothy and back again; Kurzyniec is adorable and funny, and Rella is gorgeous and filled with great comedic timing. As Michaels agent Fran, Dianne Manaster is delightfully crass, and Kathy Halenda's Rita Marshall, the new show's producer, gives it her all in a few short scenes.

Overall, it's a fun and fluffy show, winning the Best Book and Best Leading Actor Tonys in 2019. The closing of Act Two does redeem a bit of the lost opportunity with the romance between Michael and Julie, but that story could have been explored more to sweeten this fun musical experience. In the end it's a mixed bag, but there are so many moments to tickle your funny bone, perhaps the story isn't that important. Definitely don't bring small children unless you want to have long conversations about cuss words. "Tootsie" will leave you giggling with delight if comedy is your bag.

"Tootsie" is running through October 30th at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) 220 Weybosset Street, Providence RI 02903. For information or tickets call 401-421-2787  tor visit www.ppacri.org.

by Will Demers

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