The national tour of Tootsie: The Comedy Musical, a crisply updated version of the Academy Award®winning 1982 film, arrived at the Durham Performing Arts Center last night for eight fresh, fun, and entertaining performances. If the audience reaction is any indication, it might be a highlight of the 2021-22 Truist Broadway at DPAC season.
Like the 1982 film of the same name, Tootsie is a broad comedy, based primarily on gender roles. Clearly, after nearly 40 years, our view of many of the play’s themes is quite different. I came to this show curious about how these changes might be handled. I am pleased to say that the updates in both story and tone work very well.
Among the more major updates are many warnings from a variety of the cast members as to the potentially inappropriate behavior of the lead character. Drew Becker plays both Michael Dorsey and his female alter ego, Dorothy Michaels. Becker is absolutely brilliant in the role. He is convincing both as a man and a woman, primarily due to his remarkable vocal ability to span multiple octaves without using a distracting falsetto.
Jared David Michael Grant is also remarkable as Jeff Slater, Michael/Dorothy’s roommate in a greatly expanded role from the film. Roommate Jeff has most of the funniest lines in the play of which there are many.
In another major update, the play-within-the-play is a musical, rather than the soap opera as it was in the film. This added greatly to the comedy, because the musical — a sequel to Romeo and Juliet — is just as ridiculous as it sounds. There are a couple of moments when Ron Carlisle (Adam du Plessis) — a hack of a director — demonstrates the musical’s choreography. Lovers of musicals will love this bit.
Thanks to tour director Dave Solomon, the pacing of the show is not unlike a sitcom; and the audience was laughing throughout at the dialog and even several visual gags. The songs are not particularly memorable, but the lyrics are funny and advanced the story. Denis Jones’ choreography and Christine Peters’ sets are fine as well.
The comedic gender-bending did create a bit of a rabbit hole for the story to escape, and this did leave the ending slightly too long and possibly a bit less than satisfying.
I typically like to recommend that patrons bring young people to as many shows as they can. This touring version of Tootsie is no exception; however, Tootsie does contain a bit of language and adult themes that may be borderline. I would assume that any kid who has spent at least two weeks at a public middle school would be able to handle it.
I would be remiss not to mention the COVID-19 situation, as there were constant reminders of the fact that theater has changed. Tuesday nigh, the house was nearly full. DPAC requires proof of vaccination and masks.
David Yazbek and Robert Horn’s TOOTSIE: THE COMEDY MUSICAL (In Person at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20-24), presented as part of Truist Broadway at DPAC. (Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham). TRAILER: https://youtu.be/NYGYbgC4BTs. DIGITAL PROGRAM: https://issuu.com/dpac0/docs/tootsie_digital_playbill. DPAC NEWS RELEASE: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/tootsie-on-sale-now-at-dpac. OFFICIAL WEBSITES: https://tootsiemusical.com/, https://www.facebook.com/TootsieMusical, https://www.instagram.com/tootsiemusical/, https://twitter.com/tootsiemusical, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn6nplNni-t4HO5yZzNEmBg. IBDB WEB PAGE: https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/tootsie-519385. TICKETS: $30 and up, plus taxes and ticket fees. Click here to buy tickets. GROUPS (10+ tickets): 919-680-2787, Groups@DPACnc.com, and https://www.dpacnc.com/events/groups-services. DIRECTIONS: https://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/directions. PARKING: https://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/parking. COVID-19 VACCINATION & TEST REQUIREMENTS (scroll down): https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/tootsie. INFORMATION: 919-680-2787 or CustomerService@DPACnc.com. Susie Potter Review.
Robert O’Connell is a playwright, and has had dozens of productions and awards throughout the world. He has a MS degree in Management Systems Analysis. A lifelong educator, O’Connell has also published three novels at http://www.flashmobthenovel.com/ and two humor anthologies from his blog, https://thesmartestguyiknow.wordpress.com/. He and his wife have settled in Cary, NC. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.