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Center Stage

Broadway tours return to central Iowa


The first National Tour of the dynamic musical comedy, “Tootsie,” will be at Des Moines Performing Arts, Feb. 8-13, on the Civic Center stage. Photo courtesy of “Tootsie” national tour marketing

How can a talented actor whose arrogance ultimately gets him blacklisted continue to pursue his dream career? That premise will be musically explored when Des Moines audiences prepare for the whirlwind new musical “Tootsie,” scheduled to grace the Des Moines Performing Arts Civic Center stage for a week run beginning Feb. 8. This much ballyhooed musical begins sweeping across the nation, as Des Moines is one of its early stops. Not to brag, but Des Moines hosts this gem of a musical comedy before the likes of Denver, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. 

The show also marks the eagerly anticipated return of the Willis Broadway Series, when the best of Broadway comes to Des Moines. Ah, sweet times are here again.

In a telephone interview with Drew Becker (as Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels), who stars in the title role, he provides glimpses into the allure of this show, as well as what makes it delightfully different than the 1982 Dustin Hoffman film upon which it’s based. 

“The writing is fantastic and hilarious,” Becker says, while talking about the balance between the songs and the story. “(This show is) beautifully in tandem with how the book and the score work together. It is woven together as only (Tony Award-winning) Robert Horn and (2018 Tony Award-winner) David Yazbek could have done it.”

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“Tootsie” marks the return of the popular Willis Broadway Series at Des Moines Performing Arts. Patrons from near and far make plans anchored by the shows offered through this premier programming, which will include “Hadestown,” “Hamilton,” “Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “1776,” with “Tootsie” kicking off the triumphant new season of Broadway-caliber artistry. 

When asked if there were elements of his Michael/Dorothy character with which he identified, Becker responded, “I completely relate to my struggle to being able to get into the (audition) room and get the job.”

In comparing the film to the live performance, Becker shared how the film version, which is excellent, still has a somewhat static element to it — it never changes.  

“With this comedy, we work with the audience. We respond to all of the laughter and reactions, so, genuinely, every show is different.”

Perhaps that’s why successful stage performers such as Becker adhere to the oft-used adage about approaching every on-stage appearance as if it was one’s first and one’s last performance. Therein lies the magic of live performing arts. He is grateful for his part in the movement of parents and grandparents introducing a new generation to the “Tootsie” story. 

Beyond “Tootsie” — Revolution, Peach, Murder, Journey

“The Revolutionists” at Tallgrass Theatre Company, “James and the Giant Peach Jr” at Class Act Productions (CAP), “Murder on the Orient Express” at the Des Moines Community Playhouse and Iowa Stage’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night” bring a wealth of diverse theater to patrons in February. 

Tallgrass is roaring back into life after an extended hiatus which involved finding a new performing space. “The Revolutionists,” under the direction of Megan Helmers, is a feisty feminist comedy anchored in the bloody French Revolution. 

CAP brings the modified version of Roald Dahl’s beloved story of friendship to life with this adaptation geared towards younger audiences.

The Playhouse shares the classic Agatha Christie story, as Hercule Poirot has his problem-solving acumen tested.

Iowa Stage brings Eugene O’Neill’s classic drama to central Iowa audiences, a rare experience in the hands of a gifted theater company.

Add the Fresh Produce concert reading by Theatre Midwest of “Burst” at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, and this promises to be a month where the abundance of hot performance options will help keep winter’s chill away from our cultural core. ♦

Overheard in the Lobby 

Check for updates with each company.

• Ankeny Community Theatre –

• Carousel Theatre of Indianola –

• Class Act Productions –

• Des Moines Community Playhouse/Kate Goldman Theatre –

• Des Moines Performing Arts

• Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre –

• Iowa Shakespeare Experience –

• Iowa Stage Theatre Company –

• Pyramid Theatre Company –

• Tallgrass Theatre Company

• Urbandale Community Theatre –

John Busbee is a creative project developer, critic, playwright, author, producer and media professional. He has produced his weekly show, The Culture Buzz, on KFMG since 2007.

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