Thursday, November 21, 2019

Mel Sums It Up (Tootsie Review)

Jacket: Nordstrom//Top: J Crew Factory//Jeans: J Crew Factory //Shoes: Adidas 

I want to start this review by standing that I won the lottery to purchase tickets to this show...sort of. It's funny to look back at it now, but I have the worst luck winning the lottery for discount priced tickets and so on a Saturday morning I decided to start working my chances of winning the lottery for this show. I'm a huge Santino Fontana fan after seeing him in Cinderella with Laura Osnes in 2013, and was so excited for the opportunity to see him in the role that earned him a Tony Award.

Fast forward to the next day, turned out I won the lottery for the Saturday matinee performance and not the Sunday performance. Thankfully, the box office was understanding of my slip up of not knowing what the date of the month was and was accommodating in transferring my lottery ticket to a ticket for the performance that day.

Going into seeing this show, I have never seen the movie version so I was going in with an open mind. Honestly I think it was the perfect way for me to see it. Most of the time when I see shows that are based off of movies, I end up being disappointed it because my expectations are so high.

So brief synopsis of the show, Michael is a forty year old actor who is trying to get his big break but is being blacklisted from the directors in the industry because he is difficult to work with. His friend Sandy comes over one night to get him to help prepare for an audition for the role of the nurse for a new version of Romeo and Juliet. After deciding to go in the disguise of an older lady named Dorothy, he ends up booking the part and becoming a star, while also making changes to the industry. Of course not everything goes smoothly, as Michael begins to fall for his costar, Julie.

What I love most about this show besides Santino giving the performance of a lifetime with 27 costume changes throughout the show, is the fact that David Yazbek wrote this right after creating the Tony Award winning musical The Band's Visit (now on National Tour, review of show here). It's a completely different score from The Band's Visit and really showcases how diverse of a composer and lyricist Yazbek is. A few of my favorite songs from the show includes "Whaddya Do",  "What's Gonna Happen", and "Jeff Sums It Up". William Ivey Long continues to amaze the crowds with his wonderful costume designs complete with mind-blowing costume changes.

Santino Fontana gives a wonderful comedic performance as Michael/Dorothy and takes on the role of leading the show extremely well. We got to experience his comedic side in Cinderella, but what's great about seeing him in this role is that he's gotten the chance to develop the character and the storyline throughout the workshops and pre-Broadway run in Chicago. If this is considered his best performance yet, I can't wait to see what he does in the future. He shows a top triple threat performance throwing in a short tap solo at the end of the show.

Lilli Cooper plays the role of Julie, a rising performer who becomes close friends with Dorothy and who Michael starts to develop feelings for. What I love about Julie's character is that even though she thinks she becomes a better person because of Dorothy, she actually indirectly makes Michael a better person. While Julie is considered a leading role, in my opinion the way they created the role made it seem more secondary. Again, I'm not sure how the role is in the movie version, but I felt the show featured more scenes with Michael and Jeff. At least those were the scenes that stood out the most to me. I also did not like how they ended the movie with Michael and Julie. I was left with more questions than answers.

Sarah Stiles performed the role of Sandy, Michael's ex-girlfriend and current friend. Sarah gives the comedic performance of the season with this role, performing on the hardest numbers in the show. Her big number, "What's Gonna Happen", reminds me of a mix of Sondheim and A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. She really portrays the mindset and nervous anxiety of an actress trying to make it big time and get their name out there. I also related to her because she overthinks every situation the same way that I tend to do.

I was lucky enough to see understudy James Moyes in the role of Jeff for the show and he was amazing. During the first act, I kept forgetting which character had an understudy performing it and completely thought that Jeff was the principal cast. This is what I love most about seeing understudies is that you get to see someone in the role who doesn't perform it eight times a week but knows the character inside and out as the principal would. My biggest pet peeve for Broadway is when people complain about seeing understudies in a performance, but honestly I get so excited to see names up on the understudy boards because you get the rare chance to see someone else in the role. What I love about James's Jeff is that aside from Santino's performance, he was the performer that stood out the most for me, even though Jeff is the most indifferent person in the cast. My favorite part is how he goes along with Michael's crazy plan without questioning it much, except to tell him how crazy the plan actually is.

Some of the more minor characters that stood out for me in the show were John Behlmann as Max, an actor in the show who develops a crush on Dorothy, Julie Halston as Rita, producer for the show Michael ends up booking as Dorothy, and Michael McGrath as Stan, Michael's agent. Halston and McGrath are both veterans on Broadway and still deliver stellar comedic performances that leave a lasting impression on the audience, while Behlmann is a newer face to the broadway stage, but delivers a comedic performance that I believe will lead him to long career on the stage.

This show is great for anyone who has seen the movie. It's one of the best film to stage adaptations I've seen recently. There is some language used throughout the show, so I wouldn't suggest it for anyone with young children tagging along.

Tootsie is currently playing at the Marquis Marriott theatre until January 5 and then will be launching a national tour in 2020.

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