Credit: Julieta Cervantes

The timing of the pre-Broadway world premiere of Tootsie, days
after the Brett Kavanaugh hearing, is unfortunate. The play itself is
interesting, cheeky, and all kinds of complicated. Directed by Tony veteran
Scott Ellis, with book and score by Robert Horn and David Yazbek,
respectively, this loose adaptation of the classic 1982 comedy brings
everything to the present day except the main character Michael’s iconic
drag costume. In the role made famous by Dustin Hoffman—who’s currently
embroiled in #MeToo harassment allegations—Santino Fontana initially plays
the character of Michael Dorsey as a narcissistic jerk whose pursuit of
“truth” has alienated everyone on Broadway. In a moment of desperation, he
dresses as a woman, lands an audition and launches the career of his alter
ego, Dorothy Michaels.

While masquerading quite artfully as a rapid-fire sitcom built for even
non-musical lovers, the production covers a host of thorny social issues.
Most broadly, it’s a really fun, irreverent parody of Broadway and the
musical form itself, with Reg Rogers playing Ron Carlisle, the epitome of a
chauvinistic, holier-than-thou director. A layer deeper, the main conceit
of cross-dressing feels less wacky and more loaded in light of today’s more
inclusive views of sexual and gender identity. At its core, though, the
story is a feminist win disguised in slapstick. Having a male character
discover and internalize what it means to be a woman moving through the
world, from high heels to harassment, allows the show to preach beyond the
choir and create allies along the way. Michael says it best: “Being a woman
is no job for a man.”   v