SCHENECTADY — For those that have been waiting for an old- fashioned, entertaining evening of musical theater, Proctors’ offering of the Broadway musical “Tootsie” may be for you.
But wait, “Tootsie”? A musical version of “Tootsie”?
Isn’t this one of those tossed-together, film-to-stage adaptations that usually play cruise ships and casinos? Well, no, actually.
Unlike “Happy Days, the Musical!” “Dirty Dancing” or “Wolverine, The Final Howl” (yes, I made this one up …for now), “Tootsie” has some hefty, legitimate Broadway pedigree.
To refresh your memory, “Tootsie,” the 1982 film, was a major box office hit that starred Dustin Hoffman as Michael Dorsey, an out=of =work theater actor who found fame and success when he put on a dress and became Dorothy Michaels, a no-nonsense actress who celebrated her craft and demanded respect.
Back in the day, this film farce was fierce and funny. The screenplay by Larry Gelbart and Don McGuire was a gem, chock full of memorable one-liners and visual gags. But as funny as it was, the story was morally toothless.
Little negative fallout affects Michael at the end of the tale. With all of his deceit and deception taken at the expense of others, Michael appears to emerge unscathed, he gets the girl.
It didn’t land true in 1982 and it most certainly doesn’t play true now. The musical makes an effort to addresses these issues in its update, and while it may not be perfect in its final form, it is far superior to the film.
Robert Horn’s new script is a winner; literally; it won the 2019 Tony for best book of a musical. Shifting the action from the world of soap opera to the backstage of Broadway works effortlessly. Dialogue is fresh, modern and tart with belly laughs that emerge organically and ever so frequently.
Yazbek’s score is, however, a mixed bag. Lyrically, the show sails just fine. But melodically, little of it lingers after you leave the theater. The score is pleasant and, loathe to say, as it seems a pejorative, serviceable.
In addition, most of the evening’s most effective numbers are not sung by the leading character of Michael/Dorothy (played here by a determined and winsome Drew Becker). Prime example: the character of Sandy, Michael’s girlfriend, is given a potent comic patter song, “What’s Gonna Happen,” a hilarious self-deprecating, self-defeatist anthem of angst, peppered with litanies of “what ifs.” The number is a showstopper and is winningly presented by a sensational Payton Reilly.
The first act power ballad “I’m Alive” is given a strong emotional connect by the very impressive Ashley Alexandra, who plays Julie, Michael’s new love interest. And again, Yazbek scores big kudos with Jeff’s (Michael’s roommate, played by a very funny Jared David Michael Grant) second-act standout, “Jeff Sums it Up,” a wonderfully plotted number given great power and humor by Grant.
And it’s hard to ignore the fact that Yazbek had trouble finding Michael/Dorothy’s voice — either of them. Michael’s act-one closer “Unstoppable” lands false and flaccid from a dramaturgical viewpoint — no fault lies with the performers — but the song has little if any visceral tension. Luckily, Horn’s script is such a gem; the evening doesn’t suffer a fatal blow.
The supporting cast is first-rate. Matthew Rella perfectly punches up the pulchritude as the dimwitted pretty boy, Max. Kathy Helnda’s sly and sassy producer, Rita, has just the right amount of snap and crackle. Adam DuPlessis’ pretentious and ever-so-licentious director, Ron, is the perfect comedic mix of Billy DeWolfe and Richard E. Grant, shamelessly stealing every scene he is in — you will not be able to keep a straight face as he demonstrates the frantic choreography of the show to his fantastic corps of dancers. (And don’t rush out of the theater too quickly when the curtain falls at the end of the show — there’s a recap.)
Technically the show is a winner. Christine Peters’ set design for this tour is attractive and functional, grabbing just the right amount of inspiration and style from David Rockwell’s winning Broadway design.
The lighting by Don Holder and costumes by William Ivy Long compliment with nimble and artful flourishes. At times, Denis Jones’ choreography puzzles with its lack of focus, but honestly, it’s light and doesn’t distract and it is not overdone, which sinks so much of the current Broadway fare.
WHERE: Proctors, Schenectady
WHEN: Through April 16
HOW MUCH: $25.50 – $120.00
MORE INFO: 518-346-6204