Broadway’s ‘Tootsie’ uses comedy to examine gender inequality  

The Pikes Peak Center is finishing up January by hosting the national touring company of the Broadway musical “Tootsie,” a comedic examination of masculinity and the struggles women face in the world of theatre.  

Describing the show as a “love letter to theatre,” the American Theatre Guild outlines “Tootsie” as the story of a struggling Broadway actor, Michael Dorsey, who decides to dress as a woman, Dorothy Michaels, in order to find work.  

While Variety confirms that the show is based on the 1982 Dustin Hoffman movie of the same name, touring cast member Kaimana Neil explains that the show has been updated for modern audiences while still paying tribute to its source material.  

“It’s interesting … for me to see the stories that were told in the ‘70s when this movie came out and … just see how it’s adapted to today,” he said. “There’s, like, fidget spinners and like a lot of little throwback jokes that I feel like a lot of younger kids or college age kids would understand.”  

Neil also discussed how Michael’s journey demonstrates a greater understanding of the struggles women face in theatre when the power balance has historically favored men. He explained Michael’s arrogant approach to his work changes when he experiences discrimination firsthand.  

“It’s very feminist forward in a way, and just kind of highlights the more toxic parts of theatre,” he said. “You’ll be laughing, but then … they’ll say a joke where it’s like, ‘oh like that’s super truthful and super wrong,’ but, like, they’ll highlight it through comedy so it kind of sticks a little bit more.” 

One of the elements of “Tootsie” that Neil appreciates most is the lighthearted nature of the show, especially in how it handles sensitive subject matter.  

“A lot of times, theatre can be a little more downtrodden, and kind of super intense and like a very emotional experience, where I feel like Tootsie’s … a lot of fun, very lighthearted and more uplifting,” he said. “I feel like it’s like a very comical show, so you gotta get some humor and you just wanna laugh, it’s a pretty easy-going time.” 

Neil is a member of the ensemble himself, and he describes his roles as alternating between Michael’s inner dialogue and rehearsing for the Broadway show-within-the-show where Michael is working.  

“The ensemble kind of functions as [Michael’s] … conscience throughout the show, so we’ll kind of, like, come on and we’ll help carry the story of his thought process throughout the show,” he said. 

With more than 40 stops, touring means Neil can see different parts of the country. He is also able to show some family members in Colorado his craft, as they have had a difficult time watching him due to the distance from his hometown in Maui, Hawaii.  

“It’s an interesting experience to be like, ‘Hey, I’m doing this professional show, like visiting your town, come see me,” he said. “It’ll be cool for my family to see that because growing up they didn’t get to see a lot of my shows.” 

Ticket prices for “Tootsie” currently range from $43 to $98. More information on tickets and showtimes can be found at the American Theatre Guild website. “Tootsie” has showings at 7:30 p.m. from Jan. 30 through Feb. 1.  

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