Tootsie Unpacks at Proctors in Schenectady Through The Weekend
Based on the 1982 Dustin Hoffman film, Tootsie follows 40-year-old Michael Dorsey an arrogant opinionated obnoxious actor who is unable to get cast because of the way he behaves and when he does land a job, is fired. Dorsey gives it one more shot; this obviously heterosexual man, auditioning, in drag, for the role of Juliet’s nurse in the sequel to Romeo and Juliet. Of course, his alter ego Dorothy Michaels lands the job, has the play basically rewritten, re-costumed, and renamed and it becomes a hit.
The premise of drag is not nearly as outrageous today as it was in 1980, think Kinky Boots, La Cage, Victor Victoria, Hairspray, Rent, Some Like it Hot, etc… so it loses a great deal of the impact that the movie carried. There is also a great deal more sensitivity and awareness of sexual norms, in the LGBQT+ community. No one really is really jarred by the appearance of a man in drag anymore. The basic problem with the show from an audience perspective, there is no sympathetic viewpoint for the audience to connect with.
David Yazbek’s music is very one note, everything sounds the same. Certainly, this show is not up to Yazbek’s usual standards. Andrew David Sotomayor and Josh Ceballos’ musical direction is strong, considering what they were given to work with. Robert Horn’s book is while not boring, but certainly dull, The book has been totally changed from the movie version and doesn’t work all that well. Christine Peters’s scenic design and scene changes are a delight to watch, as the cast moves the sets, props, and furniture on and off stage.
William Ivey Long’s costumes are stunning including the iconic Tootsie red sequenced gown, which appears to be added into the show just so that people are reminded what show they are seeing.
The large cast of 25+ does their darnedest to work with what they were given. They all sing their hearts out and dance like tomorrow may never come. The show will certainly give this young, relatively inexperienced cast the opportunity to cut their chops on the road and gain valuable experience.
There are some highlights through all of this that should not go unnoticed. Payton Reilly as Sandy, the neurotic actress, and Dorsey’s ex-girlfriend is outstanding. Her comic delivery is key to moving this show along the tracks. Jared David Michael Grant is Dorsey’s best friend Jeff who owns the stage whenever he is on it. It is the double entendres that these two characters seem to have an abundance of, coupled with their incredibly straight delivery and sideways knowing glances to the audience that provides most of the humor in the show. Max Rella, the actor without a brain adds some great comic moments.
Drew Becker is Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels. His character shows no real connection to Sandy, the ex. As Dorsey, Becker is just so-so, but fortunately, he spends most of his time on stage in drag as Dorothy, and there he does shine. Becker spends almost the entire night onstage, except for a few brief exits for costume changes.
Tootsie is at best a mixed bag. The second act is much stronger than the first. In all, it was not a great evening at the theatre, but rather an OK one. The opening night seemed to have played this out with a theater that was at best two-thirds full.
Tootsie at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady through Sunday, April 16. For more information or tickets: www.proctors.org or call the box office at 518-346-6204.