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Listen: Santino Fontana on How Broadway’s ‘Tootsie’ Was Adapted for Our Times

Tootsie Santino Fontana
Matthew Murphy

Broadway’s “Tootsie” has turned into one of this season’s Tony Awards frontrunners, winning raves for its deftly funny update of potentially problematic source material — and for a firecracker cast led by Tony nominee Santino Fontana (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Frozen”), who makes his character’s transformation, from difficult actor Michael Dorsey to female alter ego Dorothy Michaels, look effortless.

Listen to this week’s podcast below:

But it ain’t as easy as it seems. Each costume change is an elaborate backstage dance: “It’s like a war movie back there,” Fontana said on the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. “I’m in the trenches with a bra and elastic and a corset and makeup and nine people following me around.”

Figuring out the logistics of all those physical shifts — not to mention the vocal work that Fontana’s doing to distinguish between the two characters — was perhaps even less challenging that the larger issue that confronted this new version of the gender-bending 1982 film comedy. The world has changed a lot in the 40 years since the movie came out, especially in the wake of #MeToo and Time’s Up. And “Tootsie” is, at its core, the story of a man who takes a job away from a woman.

But the recent rise in the visibility of gender and power dynamics only makes “Toosie” more relevant, Fontana argued.

“It shines even more of a light on: What the hell have we been just dealing with, and thinking it’s okay? And what a great opportunity [it is] to put someone literally in their shoes, and be forced to face it, and we can laugh about it and learn about it. “

Also on the new Stagecraft, the actor revealed the inspiration he took from his grandmother, described the huge laughs that threaten to derail the show each night, and played six degrees of Rebecca Traister.

New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on Apple PodcastsStitcher or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.