There were a lot of bad ideas that had to take place in order for there to be a musical version of the 1982 Dustin Hoffman film “Tootsie.”
The touring version of this musical is now running at the Fox Theatre through April 2, and while the premise is essentially the same as the movie, it seems woefully outdated and the changes that have been made make the story even less plausible than it was 40 years ago.
The story centers on struggling actor Michael Dorsey (Drew Becker) whose ego and self-importance keep him from getting a job. An opportunity presents itself when a Broadway musical is desperate to fill a part that Michael thinks he would be perfect for. The only problem is that it is a part for a woman.
So Michael disguises himself as a woman named Dorothy, auditions for the part and then starts making wholesale changes to the show and falling for the leading lady Julie Nichols (Ashley Alexandra) who becomes fast friends with Dorothy.
There are many reasons why the movie works and the musical doesn’t. While the main joke of the movie was Hoffman passing as a woman, the thrust of the film is about Michael getting more than he bargains for as his transformation becomes a way to illustrate the struggles women face on a daily basis; from fashion, to sexual harassment to banging up against the glass ceiling.
The musical only clumsily bumps up against these issues while skipping over the fact that gender and gender-fluidity is a much more hot-button and complex topic now than it was in 1982.
The other problem is that Michael is not a very likeable character, and while he is redeemed at the end of the story, it takes an incredibly charming and skilled actor to make you want to spend time with all of his neuroses and ego trips on the path to his redemption. Dustin Hoffman was able to pull this off, but (and I mean this with no disrespect to Becker) he is not Dustin Hoffman.
Changing the setting from a soap opera to Broadway also raises the stakes and makes Dorothy’s rise to fame even that much more implausible.
Of course none of this is the fault of the touring production and the cast does their best to navigate the stodgy jokes and forgettable songs.
I would be remiss if I failed to point out Payton Reilly who plays Michael’s neurotic ex-girlfriend and who gets the show’s lone bright spot with the cute “What’s Gonna Happen” in which she predicts disastrous outcomes for her auditions.
There’s not much else to say as this show is destined for obscurity and that is probably for the best.
“Tootsie” is now playing at the Fox Theatre through April 2. For tickets call 314-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.