When a Broadway musical clicks on virtually all counts, appreciating the professionalism is a pleasure. “Tootsie” has it all--slick staging, superb performances, plenty of hilarity, lively choreography, excellent sets, a catchy score, a large orchestra, a touch of sentiment and some contemporary takes on women. Although it generally follows the plot of the 1982 film on which it is based, this “Tootsie” stands comfortably on its own.
The highlight, as it should be, is the entertaining performance by Santino Fontana as Michael Dorsey, an actor who is such a pain that he finds trouble getting or holding a job, and then, posing as a woman named Dorothy Michaels, becomes a star in the role of a nurse in an absurd Broadway musical titled “Juliet’s Curse.” (In the movie it was a TV soap opera.) Fontana is terrific, both as Michael, and in his actress capacity, and he sings well too, adjusting his voice according to necessity. This is really his show.
But he has plenty of help. David Yazbek (“The Band’s Visit”) has provided the very workable music and lyrics, and Robert Horn has written the clever adaptation. Other aspects of the staging add sparkle --sets by David Rockwell, costumes by William Ivey Long, lighting by Donald Holder, sound design by Brian Ronan, choreography by Denis Jones and very smart overall direction by Scott Ellis.
Fontana is backed by an extraordinary cast. Lilli Cooper is a treasure as the charismatic Julie Nichols, Dorothy’s co-star in the corny musical within the musical. Michael falls in love with her, but how does he reconcile that with her knowing him as Dorothy? Sarah Stiles, as Sandy Lester, Michael’s hapless, often-depressed girlfriend, has a rapid-fire, show-stopping number, “What’s Gonna Happen.” Andy Grotelueschen is a major plus as Michael’s outspoken roommate Jeff Slater, who has his own show-stopping number, “Jeff Sums It Up,” ribbing Michael for all the ways in which he has f—ked everything up.
Reg Rogers is amusingly overbearing as the egotistical director Ron Carlisle. John Behlmann makes the most of his role as Max Von Horn, the oaf actor who comically mangles language and becomes hot for Dorothy. Michael McGrath has some prime moments as Michael’s fed-up agent, Stan Fields. Julie Halston as brash Rita Marshall, the moneyed producer of the shambles of a musical, flashes her customary comic expertise and walks off with the best gag line in “Tootsie.” There is also a first-rate, very busy Ensemble with plenty to contribute.
One immediately feels that “Tootsie” is on the right track with “Opening Number,” in which we get a quick musical sketch of how much trouble Michael makes for himself as an actor getting on everyone’s nerves in audition after audition. And at the end, after the curtain call, there is a topper of an image as Fontana returns one more time. At the Marquis Theatre, 210 West 46th Street. Phone: 877-250-2929. Reviewed May 1, 2019.