Broadway’s return to Orlando for the first time in over a year brought us the surprising and delightful “Tootsie.” Based loosely on the 1982 movie of the same name, “Tootsie” follows down on his luck theatre actor Michael Dorsey as he hatches a crazy scheme to dress and act as a woman to get a part in a brand new musical. In his new persona as Dorothy, Michael struggles with lying to his new love interest Julie, the female lead of the show he’s joined, dealing with the inherent discrimination of being a woman, his own self-doubt and fending off the interests of another bumbling but sweet natured co-star, Max. Those familiar with the original movie, and indeed basic storytelling, will see the major plot points coming a mile away.
Taking the original “Tootsie” and updating it to be set in the modern era presents some interesting challenges. Not only have sensibilities changed in the last 30 years, but so has technology and connectivity. Questions raised by how difficult it would be to completely invent an adult person in a week are hand-waved away in favor of leaning into the comedic nature of the premise. Ultimately, the audience is asked to suspend its disbelief brought on by this premise and enjoy the story and spectacle.
This production brings the laughs fast and continuous through the first act with clever wordplay and double entendres generously lavished throughout. While the sexual allusions are never too obscene, the show does feature a healthy amount of adult language including an entire song about how the main character “messed” up, with a bit more colorful language. Drew Becker’s Michael Dorsey is hard to root for, although you do end up pulling for him to become a better person and end up with Ashley Alexandra’s heartfelt and genuine Julie. A standout of the supporting cast is Payton Reilly as neurotic actress Sandy, who’s high energy rendition of “What’s Gonna Happen” left the audience breathless.
“Tootsie” dramatically drags (no pun intended) during its second act and the overuse of long dramatic pauses for comedic effect kills the pacing of several scenes. Some minor technical difficulties along the way including popping microphones and awkward scene changes can be chalked up to opening night in a new venue and shouldn’t be a problem moving forward. These small distractions aside, “Tootsie” provides audiences hungry for Broadway-caliber entertainment a welcome breath of fresh air and a wonderful evening back in the theater.
“Tootsie” runs now through Nov. 7 at the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando, Fla. For tickets or more information, visit DrPhillipsCenter.org.