Tootsie remains charming, even in the #MeToo era | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Tootsie remains charming, even in the #MeToo era 

"Being a woman is no job for a man" still rings true.

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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

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