‘Tootsie’ Musical Version Still Sounds Like Desperate Actor Comedy, Choreographer Says | Entertainment / Life


Times have changed since Dustin Hoffman’s robed man comedy “Tootsie” hit theaters in 1982, a film about a difficult TV actor disguising himself as a woman to secure a role.

Nowadays, drag performances have become mainstream, trans rights are at the forefront of serious social discourse, and the exploitation of women in the workplace – especially in the entertainment industry – has taken place. been put in the spotlight.

So it may seem that the recent theatrical adaptation of ‘Tootsie’, revamped into a musical, has little to offer contemporary audiences beyond the outdated gags and nostalgia for the popular ’80s film. But “Tootsie” choreographer Denis Jones is quick to point out that even after four decades one thing remains about the same: “How far will desperate actors go to get a job?”

“Having been in the limelight on both sides during my New York career, this desperation is very familiar to me,” said Jones, whose Broadway stage appearances have included “Grease,” Chicago, ”and“ The Full Monty, ”before moving backstage to work as a choreographer.

“Actors will do crazy things to get a job,” Jones said.

That sentiment is the driving force behind the musical “Tootsie,” which runs November 9-14 at the Saenger Theater, kicking off the 2021-22 season of Hancock Whitney Broadway in New Orleans, a comeback. welcome after the cancellation of the entire season last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Broadway adaptation of “Tootsie” polishes the original story of the film in which Hoffman Michael’s character disguises herself as “Dorothy” to score a role in a popular soap opera.

On stage, the drama of daytime television is replaced by the spectacle of song and dance of musical theater, redefining Michael as a complicit stage actor looking for a big break.

Unfortunately for Michael – and for his alter ego Dorothy – the show-in-the-show (an ill-conceived effort called “Juliet’s Curse”) is in shambles, and Michael-as-Dorothy must navigate a web of deceptive relationships with his. co-stars and with comically incompetent “Juliet’s Curse” director / choreographer Ron Carlisle in hopes of pulling off an opening night miracle.

Jones admits that the outrageous ineptitude of Ron Carlisle’s character “isn’t that far removed from the people I’ve worked with over the years.”

As a choreographer, Jones was thrilled to create a work that disparaged Carlise’s mess on the ridiculous choreography of “Juliet’s Curse”, but there is also a chance for last minute redemption, as “Tootsie” revel in the magic. shared live theater, even when it’s going badly.

“It was really fun for me to create intentionally bad material and then, as the show in the show gets better, figuring out a way to take that choreography and improve it in real time to create the better version.” (from “Juliet’s Curse”) for the “Tootsie” audience.

For performers and audiences alike, that theatrical magic has largely faded from the stages since the pandemic shutdowns that began in early 2021. But now Broadway has reopened in New York City, local productions are cautiously returning, and touring shows are back. to the Saenger, signaling – hopefully – a return to something like normal.

“With ‘Tootsie’ we laugh from curtain to curtain,” Jones said, recalling the tour’s first run in Buffalo, New York, last month. “And when you’re sitting among a bunch of strangers and you’re all going through the same funny thing, and the waves of laughter go through the theater and grow up, it’s really wonderful. It feels good to laugh again.

Brad Rhines writes on the theater. Email him at [email protected]

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