Fontana (right): The phony can really sing.
Marquis Theatre, New York City, (877) 250-2929
“I’m still shaking my head in disbelief,” said Charles McNulty in the Los Angeles Times. A musical based on Tootsie, the charming 1982 comedy film that starred Dustin Hoffman as an underemployed actor who cross-dresses his way to career revival, has more ways to fail than succeed. But the Broadway show is an unexpected marvel—and “yields more laughs per minute than any musical since The Book of Mormon.” The production, which has just been nominated for 11 Tonys, gets its self-aware script from Robert Horn. But “the success of Tootsie would be unthinkable without Santino Fontana’s Tony-worthy performance.” Fontana plays the Hoffman role, except that his Michael Dorsey chooses to impersonate a woman not to win a role on a soap opera but in a musical sequel to Romeo and Juliet. “Fontana, who can do almost anything with his falsetto, makes it completely plausible in the realm of theatrical fiction that Dorothy would not only get the job but be able to turn Juliet’s Curse into the talk of Broadway.”
The new Tootsie isn’t perfect, said Jesse Green in The New York Times. Its staging is “trite and vanilla,” and the script overplays some of its useful insights about gender. But “comedy rarely flows as smoothly as it does here,” thanks to an excellent cast, David Yazbek’s joke-laden songs, and the brilliant idea of making Juliet’s Curse a howlingly bad musical. What’s more, “because this is a new era,” its story about the lessons a man can learn from impersonating a woman “springs its own surprises,” reaffirming one of theater’s great paradoxes. “Musical comedy only soars when it’s fully grounded, and Tootsie, however unbelievable, has its feet on the ground—in a modest size 13 heel.” ■