‘Tootsie’ opens Tuesday at Bass Concert Hall

When people think of the movie “Tootsie,” they remember an uncomfortable Dustin Hoffman in a sparkly red sequined dress. The film, released in theaters in 1982, was built around counterpoints: social commentary with farce, seriousness with absurdity, while making some important observations on sexism.

Flash before 40 years. Society has come a long way in its treatment of women and marginalized populations, but inequalities persist. Likewise, they’re properly roasted in the updated Broadway musical “Tootsie.”

“It’s very current,” said Jared David Michael Grant, who plays Jeff Slater, originally portrayed in Bill Murray’s film. “We were lucky to work with the original author, so even now it’s reworked.”

“Tootsie’s” director Dave Solomon worked directly with original screenwriter Robert Horn to bring the production to the stage and into the future.

“The female characters have a stronger voice in the story than in the film,” Grant said. “And in some of the scenes dealing with Michael in female outfits, we worked with that to not make fun of trans people, who are actually real women.”

The Michael Grant is referring to is main character Michael Dorsey. Dorsey, played by Drew Becker, is an actor. He is lively, handsome, talented and incapable of landing a role.

Her answer: dress in drag and audition for roles traditionally meant for women.

Grant as Jeff Slater acts as the angel on Dorsey’s shoulder, enlightening his friend (and simultaneously, the audience) on all the (and hilarious) ways it could go wrong.

“It’s always fun to hear the audience reaction,” Grant said. “I am a good friend. Very forward with my feelings and open with Michael.

The musical features an original score and lyrics by Tony award-winning composer David Yazbek. Grant, who made his theatrical debut singing in church, is said to have one of the biggest songs of the entire show.

“It’s a fun song,” Grant said. “The lyrics are really smart.”

Grant also pointed out how “Tootsie” presents a mirror of real life in a humorous way. “My parents saw what a ham I was at a young age,” he said. “I did sports, but that wasn’t it. My aunt will tell a story of how in the middle of a football game I started doing Michael Jackson moves.

Grant found his way to the stage, where he said he could be the truest version of himself.

“I feel like a lot of people sometimes pretend to be someone they’re not,” he said. “Not as much as Michael Dorsey, but we wear an invisible mask. This show is about trusting people. You don’t have to be someone you’re not.

“Tootsie” takes time to examine this theme while remaining fast, upbeat and lighthearted. After several shutdowns and restarts during the pandemic, Grant — and many who have found a home in the performing arts — have expressed their gratitude for finally returning to the stage.

“During the whole quarantine situation, it was nice to take a break to re-examine myself and why I chose to do theater: Do I still love this and all?” said Grant. “And I do. Coming back was like, Wow, I really like that.

Grant said he was especially grateful to return with a musical. “This show is a constant laugh,” he said. “Really developed characters, but also gut laughs. From your heart. From your stomach. Wear a diaper just in case. It will be a wonderful thing to see.

Texas Performing Arts presents Broadway In Austin’s “Tootsie,” the Broadway musical’s first nationwide tour, Feb. 22-27, Tuesday-Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Bass Concert Hall, 2350 Robert Dedman Dr., Austin.

Tickets start at $35 and are available at texasperformingarts.org and BroadwayinAustin.com, by phone at (512) 477-1444, or at the Texas Performing Arts box office in Bass Concert Hall. For groups of 10 or more, call (877) 275-3804 or email Austin. groups@broadwayacrossamerica.com

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