Theater review_ ‘Tootsie’ at The Bushnell is extra considerate and funnier than you may anticipate

Some Broadway musicals based mostly on basic Hollywood films attempt to recapture the unique’s model as intently as humanly attainable, the most important adjustments being that the reveals are reside and the actors sing. Others take the title and naked bones of the film and head off in entire new instructions, for higher or worse.

“Tootsie” is the perfect of each worlds. You’re fortunately reminded of the perfect components of the film that spawned it, however this musical additionally has its personal causes for being. The primary nationwide tour of the present, based mostly on the Tony-winning manufacturing that ran on Broadway from April 2019 by January 2020, is at The Bushnell by Sunday.

“Tootsie” begins promisingly, by wanting and sounding like crap. Contemporary-faced refrain members with pasted-on grins sing a hokey and by-product tune about New York in entrance of a wrinkled fabric backdrop of a metropolis skyline. You’re simply beginning to fear — this “Tootsie” is in truth a non-Fairness tour that has been on the highway for over a 12 months —when it’s revealed that this shoddy NYC inanity is a intentionally terrible show-within-a-show.

That is how we meet the offended and annoyed actor Michael Dorsey, who argues about his sole line within the present due to the frilly backstory he’s constructed for this fleeting nonentity of a personality. The flimsy New York backdrop falls and is changed by a a lot flashier skyline. The refrain members drop the faux smiles and acquire allure and depth, and “Tootsie” has completed its first large laugh-filled fake-out. The following one, after all, is when Michael decides to decorate as a girl to get an audition, nabs the position and adjustments his life.

There are comprehensible issues a few musical based mostly on a 1982 film a few man pretending to be a girl for a job. How can any “Tootsie” navigate the very totally different dialogue about inequity and gender roles that’s taking place right now and keep humorous? But this musical will not be solely unafraid to be set within the twentieth century, it is aware of that its comedy can now not relaxation on males aggressively intimidating ladies or the concept lesbianism is stunning. It is aware of that it has a complete different stream of mirth to mine: self-obsessed theater actors and administrators.

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“Tootsie” dispenses with the awkwardness of its probably misogynistic setup simply and sometimes. Everybody who’s in on Michael’s deception is completely satisfied to tell him that his masquerade is “an insult to all ladies” or “an uncharted type of theatrical suicide.” It’s additionally made clear that Michael doesn’t change into Dorothy as any kind of anti- (or, certainly, pro-) girl assertion. He’s just so delusionally self-confident about his performing talents that he feels he can play any position, whether or not it’s a small little one (in a failed audition) or a 40-year-old girl who in flip insists on enjoying roles that administrators aren’t contemplating her for. It helps that the actor enjoying Michael, Drew Becker, is nice and puppylike. Michael’s obtained unhealthy instincts, however his pals (and the viewers) are inclined to forgive him.

The musical, just like the Dustin Hoffman film earlier than it, is as a lot concerning the struggles of being an artist in New York as about looking for romance or self-worth there.

“Tootsie”’s guide is by Robert Horn, a reliably humorous author whose crowdpleasing credit vary from the Disney Channel’s “Teen Seaside” films to the stage model of Disney’s “Hercules.” He provides dozens of recent one-liners to “Tootsie” that match effectively with the memorable traces from the film — excessive reward, since that unique screenplay had contributions from the likes of Larry Gelbert, Elaine Might, Murray Schisgal and Invoice Murray.

The songs are by David Yazbek, who not often works on a musical that’s not based mostly on a film and who brings an virtually mystical versatility to his composing. “Tootsie” sounds nothing just like the Yazbek present that performed The Bushnell final 12 months, “The Band’s Go to.” The place “The Band’s Go to” was lyrical and multi-cultural and moody, the “Tootsie” rating is snappy and foolish, with patter songs and intelligent wordplay and catchy melodies. It’s additionally joyfully engaged in the identical self-parodic “theater is loopy” video games as the remainder of the present.

“Tootsie” the musical makes some main adjustments to the film’s plot. Sandy, the neurotic buddy performed by Teri Garr doesn’t get pulled right into a relationship with Michael right here; she’s established as his ex-girlfriend in the beginning of the present. Julie, the castmate who befriends Dorothy (and to whom Michael turns into attracted) is performed gently but firmly by Ashley Alexandra, her sensitivity aided by some stirring songs of empowerment. The male castmate who has a crush on Dorothy (known as John Van Horn within the film, Max Van Horn right here) will not be a lecherous previous man as within the film however a dumb younger reality-TV star who’s new to Broadway. Matthew Rella performs Max with the blissful innocence of a cartoon teenager.

The most important change from “Tootsie” the film to “Tootsie” the Broadway musical is that the position Michael wins as Dorothy will not be in a cleaning soap opera however in a (meta alert!) Broadway musical. The present’s known as “Juliet’s Curse” however because of Dorothy’s enhancements will get a reputation change to “Juliet’s Nurse” with Dorothy because the star. This setting lets “Tootsie” pile on dozens extra theater in-jokes and likewise hone in additional tightly on its entire play-acting premise.

For a tour that’s been on the highway this lengthy, and which indulges in some refreshingly unorthodox casting decisions to underscore its central theme that persons are not all the time as they appear, “Tootsie” is top-flight in how professionally wildly entertaining it may be. The comedian timing is impeccable, particularly the beautiful pauses and sullen stares of Jared David Michael Grant as Michael’s roommate Jeff. Grant can convey extra hilarious incredulity with one raised eyebrow than most actors can do with their entire our bodies — and he can do wild bodily comedy as effectively! As Sandy, Payton Reilly will get whole songs, and a few room-wrecking rampages, to point out off her comical self-destructive low-esteem points. The wackier characters like Max, Sandy and the unhinged director Ron Carlisle (Adam Du Plessis) are countered by extra down-to-earth ones like Julie and Jeff. A dozen refrain members are consistently in movement, serving as a complete metropolis stuffed with supporting characters.

“Tootsie” is in a terrific custom of backstage reveals about how odd it may be to be an actor. It’s additionally in a terrific custom of comedy routines about altering garments in a rush and slamming doorways to maintain pals from studying ridiculous secrets and techniques. It’s additionally vaguely about gender inequality and ladies’s rights. Like its star, it stands up for itself, retains transferring and remembers to remain humorous.

“Tootsie” runs by Feb. 26 at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Performances are Tuesday by Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and eight p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. $35-$135.

Christopher Arnott might be reached at