“Tootsie” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – March 16, 2022


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

We all remember “The Band’s Visit,” February’s touring Broadway musical at ASU Gammage, and how awful it was even though it won a Best Musical Tony Award telling audiences just how dreadful that “winner” was.  Now audiences are treated to another Broadway loser, “Tootsie,” that is an unbelievably boring dud even though its film origins were amazingly comic.

“Tootsie” is loosely based on the hit movie that starred Dustin Hoffman as an out-of-work and unpopular Broadway actor who dresses as a woman and suddenly becomes a major Broadway star.  Changing his sex, even if just to garner a job, allows him to hide his abysmal personality.  With help from friends, he discovers that being pleasant has rewards.

The movie remains a classic comedy because it was brilliantly conceived by Sydney Pollack and hysterically performed by Hoffman.  To adapt such a well-remembered film is dangerous.  Will the musical be as amusing as the original film?  Will the songs add character definition and help reveal the plot?  Will the staging and settings pay homage to the film’s sharp appearance?  Most significantly, will the performers equal or better their film counterparts?  With the musical “Tootsie,” the answers are all “no.”

The musical butchers the story’s funny premise as book author Robert Horn litters it with predictable jokes that belabor the slender plot.  The silly jokes could not be heard because ASU Gammage’s acoustics were not conquered by a required impeccable sound system.

The cheap looking “Tour Scenic Design” concept passed on the Broadway sets.  Flimsy drops and tacky three-dimensional pieces would be laughed at by Broadway audiences but are deemed appropriate for touring cities who pay almost Broadway prices for tickets.  The booming orchestra blasts out David Yazbek’s bland and uninteresting songs so as “Tootsie’s” overture began, it was clear that the show would disappoint.

A dreadful cast rambles through the show without the necessary comic pizzazz and plagued by weak singing.  Drew Becker is no Hoffman as he plods insipidly through the show as Michael/Dorothy.  The actor playing this character must be a radiant performer capable of sashaying around as Dorothy while being firmly in charge as Michael, something Becker missed completely.  Ashley Alexandra’s Julie, Michael’s girlfriend, faded into oblivion and no other cast merited mention.

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, ASU Gammage’s booking agent, needs to be much more careful of the shows she allows Broadway Across America to schedule here.  Since she is a Tony voter, she sees all Broadway shows but apparently has limited power to select musicals and plays for ASU Gammage so she permits Broadway duds and failures like “Tootsie” and “Mean Girls” to play with such memorable shows as “Hamilton,” “Come From Away,” and “The Lion King” on the local Broadway season.  The 2022/23 Broadway Across America season will be announced April 11 but will no doubt include “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “Frozen,” “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations,” “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” “Jagged Little Pill,” and perhaps “Moulin Rouge” if that hit show isn’t saved until a future season.

“Tootsie” is a major disappointment justifying another look at the superior film without the terrible score and which has sharply defined and well played characters.  “Tootsie” continues through March 20 at ASU Gammage.  Tickets may be obtained by calling Ticketmaster at 480-965-2022 or ordering tickets online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Grade: F-