Four decades ago, the romantic comedy film “Tootsie” starring Dustin Hoffman as talented but volatile actor Michael Dorsey who adopts a new identity as a woman to get a job in a soap opera was the second most profitable film of 1982 and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards.
Now, “Tootsie” has returned as a musical comedy that runs May 31-June 12 at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
The stage version of “Tootsie” opened in Chicago in 2018 and then transferred to Broadway in March 2019, running nearly a year and earning 11 Tony Award nominations and rave reviews.
Rolling Stone called the show “musical comedy heaven,” while The Hollywood Reporter deemed the show “the most uproarious new musical in years!”
The Tony-winning book is by Robert Horn and is based on the original story by Don McGuire and Larry Gelbart from the movie version. The score is by 2018 Tony-winner David Yazbek (“The Band’s Visit,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”).
Playwright Horn said, “I worked painfully hard to make it incredibly funny, hopefully touching at times, and to invite the audience to be a part of the humor, not just observers of it. No book of a musical exists without a score, and David Yazbek and I worked together to create this. I think the secret to a successful book is how seamlessly it can work with the score, that it feels like one person wrote it all. He and I laughed for three years non-stop creating this show, and I think that joy and left-of-center humor has its handprint throughout what you see onstage.”
“Tootsie” cast members Payton Reilly and Jared David Michael Grant agree with the humorous assessment of the show.
Reilly plays Sandy Lester, an out-of-work actress and friend of Michael and Jeff Slater, Michael’s roommate and unsuccessful playwright portrayed by Grant.
“Audiences are hooting and hollering—you will laugh for two hours straight,” stated Reilly during a recent interview. “In the movie the setting was a soap opera, in our show it’s a Broadway musical, so we can incorporate a lot of dancing.”
“It’s a love letter to the theater,” chimed in Grant.
“If you love theater, you will love this show,” agreed Reilly.
Reilly and Grant are happy to be on the tour, which was postponed several times due to the pandemic. The “Tootsie” tour began last September and will pause for a summer break before resuming in the fall.
“The show is about actors desperate to work, so we get it,” laughed Reilly. “You never know what you had until it is gone. We are so grateful to be on stage, and you can feel that the audience is grateful to be back as much as we are performing for them.”
“It’s been a big shock to the system coming out of quarantine, going into rehearsals, getting in front of an audience, and hearing that laughter,” added Grant.
The cast had to overcome numerous challenges during Covid. Even the audition process was unorthodox.
“During Covid, the auditions were all over Zoom with the creative team watching,”: recalled Reilly. “It was insane, I don’t know how they did it.”
Reilly and Grant came to musical theater in different ways. Grant started singing in his church choir and then attended a performing arts middle school in Chicago. He was hooked on musical theater and worked in shows in the Chicago area, eventually winding up in “Tootsie.”
Reilly started out as a gymnast, taking after her mother. But, said Reilly, “I was always getting in trouble for being too loud.” One day she was introduced to the world of theater, and she realized she had a talent for making people laugh. “I never looked back. My parents were supportive, so I studied musical theater in Michigan, moved to New York, got an agent, and have been working ever since.”
And now, Reilly and Grant are working in “Tootsie,” which Reilly says “has laughs all the way through, but there is also a strong message about being yourself and being truthful to who you are. It’s important for audiences to have a good time but also learn to trust in who you are and be honest.”
“And be prepared to laugh,” added Grant.
“Laughing for two hours is the best thing ever,” stated Reilly.
For tickets to “Tootsie,” visit www.SCCTA.org or call (714) 556-2787.
Our current COVID-19 policy requires ticket holders aged 15 and older to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to attend all indoor performances and events at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Fully vaccinated means your performance is at least 14 days after your final vaccine dose. To enter the theatre, please bring a photo ID (for guests over 18 years old) and proof of vaccination, either your physical vaccination card, a picture of your vaccination card, or a digital vaccination record. Most California residents may request a digital vaccination record at myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov
Ticket holders without proof of vaccination can present a negative COVID-19 test (PCR taken within 48 hours or antigen taken within 24 hours) of the performance. Along with their ticket, attendees will need to bring either documentation of a negative COVID-19 test result, emailed result, or a picture of results showing a negative diagnosis as well as the date and their name. At-home tests will not be accepted.
As of April 1, masks are not required but are strongly recommended for all ticket holders.