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10 Things We Learned About ‘Tootsie’ Star Santino Fontana at the Drama Desk’s Q&A Event

Category Broadway

|by Danielle Moore |


“Being an actor is so much about having your heart broken.”

At the age of 36, Santino Fontana has already had an enviable acting career that has spanned screen and stage. He made his Broadway debut in Sunday in the Park with George before appearing in several starry Broadway plays. He became a household name during his season on CW’s Golden Globe-Winning musical comedy, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and even voiced the villainous prince Hans in Disney’s hit film Frozen. Fontana is no stranger to starring roles in musical theater – he portrayed Prince Topher in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella – but taking on the iconic dual role of Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels in the Broadway-bound musical adaptation of Tootsie presents a different challenge entirely. At a recent Drama Desk Q&A event with the actor at Ripley Grier Studios, we learned some interesting facts about the soon-to-be star of one of the most highly anticipated shows of 2019.  

Santino Fontana as Dorothy Michaels in ‘Tootsie’ (Photo: Robert Trachtenberg)

Santino Fontana as Dorothy Michaels in ‘Tootsie’ (Photo: Robert Trachtenberg)

#1: He’s named after the character from The Godfather
…Even though his parents vehemently deny it. “My parent’s won’t admit it, but…their wedding song was The Godfather theme song,” Fontana said. He added that this past Christmas, his family had suggested watching the film as well, citing this as further proof that, “Yeah, they lied. They definitely lied.”

#2: He grew up with big dreams, but not of being a Broadway star.  
Instead, as a high schooler, Fontana wanted to play baseball. As the time to head off to college came closer, though, he realized that he would only be able to play at a small institution. “It became very clear,” he said of his chosen profession of acting, “that I was better at this…”

#3: He not-so-secretly would love to return to his Shakespearean roots.  
Fontana trained at Interlochen, where his penchant for musical theater was something of a secret to his peers. “I didn’t tell people that I sang,” he said. “All we were studying were classical plays.” Having played the title character of Hamlet at the Guthrie, Fontana hinted that he would happily brush up his Shakespeare and appear in another piece by the bard. “Don’t tell my agents,” he joked.

#4: Early in his career, he scored the role of Scarlett Johansen’s boyfriend – for a week, anyway.
A week into previews for A View From the Bridge, in which he starred opposite Scarlett Johansen, Live Schreiber and Jessica Hecht, Fontana hit his head on a table during some fight choreography. The incident had an effect on his memory, and it took him several months to recover. “I’m fine now,” he insisted humorously, adding that his memory is actually better than it was before the accident due to the memory exercises he underwent in recovery.

#5: The now-viral Playbill mashup of The Importance of Being Earnest and Jersey Shore was his idea.
Theater and English literature fans alike may now well know of the Playbill video series Jersey Shore Gone Wilde, in which Fontana and his fellow The Importance of Being Earnest cast members acted out scenarios from MTV’s Jersey Shore as their characters from the play. What many may not know is that the idea was originally Fontana’s. When Earnest’s director mentioned that the play’s characters, witty and erudite as they may be, were all ultimately acting out of basic human instinct, Fontana immediately drew a parallel to the popular reality series. “And I said, ‘We should do their (Jersey Shore’s) text as our characters.’” Millions of views later, his instincts proved correct.

 

#6: A new collaboration with his Cinderella co-star Laura Osnes is in the works.
Laura Osnes, Fontana’s co-star in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Broadway, has teamed up with the Rodgers and Hammerstein Foundation for a series of reinvented recordings of songs from the songwriting team’s classic catalog. Osnes recently unveiled this initiative at BroadwayCon 2019, and during the Drama Desk event Fontana revealed that he and Osnes have recorded a duet for the series, a new mashup version of “10 Minutes Ago” (Cinderella) and “You Are Never Away” (Allegro).

#7: Speaking of R&H, he’s a Rodgers and Hart Super Fan.
Fontana revealed that he is also an ardent fan of the music produced from the partnership of Richard Rodgers and his other well-known collaborator, Lorenz Hart. As part of the Lyrics and Lyricists series at the 92nd Street Y, Fontana – along with his wife Jessica Fontana, Tootsie co-star Lilli Cooper and others – will present We’ll Have Manhattan: Rodgers & Hart in New York, an evening of songs that celebrate the city, on Jan. 26, 27 and 28. Fontana, who conceived the concert series, was inspired by what he calls the duo’s “unbelievable” output, which included 30 shows in 25 years, and over 800 songs, many of which have become standards.

#8: He nearly turned down appearing in Hello, Dolly! with Bernadette Peters and Victor Garber. 
When he was invited to appear as Cornelius Hackl in Hello, Dolly! – the role that won Gavin Creel a Tony in the recent revival – Fontana was hesitant because he didn’t know if the energetic role was a great fit for him. After seeing the production, however, he quickly changed his tune. “My wife and I were sobbing,” he said of the monologue Dolly recites prior to “Before the Parade Passes By.” The poignant moment was ultimately was made him decide to join the production for a few weeks.

#9: His Tootsie alter ego’s look has a famous Broadway inspiration. 
It’s a good thing that Fontana decided to join the cast of Dolly, because the show’s star, Bernadette Peters, became a very important source of inspiration and consultation for his role in Tootsie. During his time in Dolly, Fontana revealed to Peters that he wanted his Tootsie alter ego, Dorothy Michaels, to look like her. Fontana even went so far as to consult Peters on the specific hairstyle that Michaels should sport – a request with which she playfully complied, by writing comments like “pretty girl” and “not-so-pretty girl” on a sheet of mockups of his face with different women’s hairstyles.

#10: He doesn’t have a dream role – at least not one that he’ll reveal.
When asked to reveal a role he’s been itching to play, Fontana responds earnestly. “Being an actor is so much about having your heart broken,” he said, referring to everything from the emotional toll of acting to the risk of injury to the specific roles – like a Pal Joey revival in which he was once set to star – that can slip through actors’ fingers. He added that Tootsie, though, is “definitely checking a box in terms of what I want to play with.”

Tootsie begins previews on Mar. 20, 2019 at the Marquis Theatre.

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