Tootsie Transforms for Broadway—In More Ways Than One

Stars Santino Fontana and Lilli Cooper highlight women’s point of view in Tootsie’s hilarious musical adaptation.

Santino Fontana and Lilli Cooper

When Santino Fontana, nominated actor for Tony, played the role of Michael Dorsey / Dorothy Michaels in the musical adaptation of Tootsie and returned to the nomination for the tenth time at the Oscars, three things stood out: red. “dressed, and the conflict is that he is a man who claims to be a woman and who falls in love with a woman.”

All this remains in the stage version, but do not expect a copy of Dustin Hoffman, performed at the Broadway Theater Marques. Michael Dorsey is still a notoriously difficult actor disguised as Dorothy Michaels to land the job. But now, the telenovela of the film is a Broadway show, Juliest’s Curse, a musical sequel to Romeo & Juliet, and Dorsey Guns for the role of The Nurse with Julie Cooper in the role of Juliet.

At the helm, director Scott Ellis, nominated eight times for Tony, with David Yazbek, winner of Tony, recording music and lyrics (a musical theater sound like The Full Monty’s) and Robert Horn writing the book with humor and worthy conscience of 2019.

This includes a “2019 Woman” in Julie de Cooper, which she describes as independent, strong and direct: “It’s really an important change we brought to Julie’s character.

“Robert Horn is one of the funniest people I know,” says Cooper. “It’s a room full of comics and we’re ahead of each other.” But the team calibrates the laugh with a sincere heart.

“We highlight the places where Michael begins to identify with Dorothy,” Fontana said. “She does things that women go through that she never thought of.”

The same goes for Fontana. After playing Michael Dorsey / Dorothy Michaels, the actor sees the world through the eyes of a woman.

The famous transformation does not only provide fodder for the classic editing of images; The curtain has been removed from systemic inequalities. “I went to shave my legs and asked,” What is this pink tax? “Men’s razors are cheaper than women’s, it’s crazy!”, He exclaims. “I knew there was an inequality, but I did not experience it at that level, it makes me want to help.”

In addition to seeing the world through the eyes of a woman, Fontana also had to find Dorothy’s voice, literally. With the creative team, he wanted to create two different voices for Fontana’s two characters. “I sang the song of the audition [that Michael sings as Dorothy] for the first time on every key, literally, and I recorded it,” he says. “And then we came back, we listened and we said to ourselves, ‘When would you buy a woman?’

“It’s like the whole natural range of a woman,” says Cooper about the technical feats of his co-star. “There is a tall and flying soprano and you also have a face crease.”

In the triumphs of comedy and technique, history also exposes vital truths. “Dorothy sees how Julie behaves, acts or speaks to Ron, the director [of Juliet’s Curse],” says Cooper. “Michael would talk to Ron in a completely different way, but Dorothy needs to adjust her way of speaking because she is now showing up as a woman.”

In this way, Tootsie is not a man at all. These are two women: Dorothy, the achievement of daily challenges, and Julie, the manifestation of life with these challenges.

“That’s why the series is so perfect for the moment,” says Fontana, “because what women have been dealing with for decades is not a problem for women, it’s a problem for men.

“Men who were conscious, progressive and thoughtful want to be part of the conversation, instead of simply listening to what we also have to do,” he adds. “Being part of it positively is a real responsibility, but it’s also a great opportunity.”

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