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Meet the Tony Winners: Santino Fontana of ‘Tootsie’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |


“It's exciting to play someone who is so passionate, and doesn't hold anything back.”

In the Broadway musical Tootsie, Michael Dorsey is a struggling New York actor who is as talented as he is difficult. Since he’s no picnic to work with, no one will hire him. But he is absolutely desperate to perform, at nearly any cost. So he gets creative, and reinvents himself as a Southern dame named Dorothy Michaels. Based on the 1982 iconic film, Tootsie is updated to reflect the present day. Santino Fontana, who won a Tony for his masterful portrayal of Michael/Dorothy, plays the dual role with panache and sensitivity. Fontana was the voice of Prince Hans in Frozen. He also starred as Greg in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and as David Saperstein in Shades of Blue. Tootsie has a Tony-winning book by Robert Horn, a score by David Yazbek, choreography by Denis Jones and direction by Scott Ellis.

Santino Fontana took home a 2019 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical as Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels in ‘Tootsie’ (Photos: Jemal Countess/Stringer; Matthew Murphy)

Santino Fontana took home a 2019 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical as Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels in ‘Tootsie’ (Photos: Jemal Countess/Stringer; Matthew Murphy)

Can you talk about your Broadway debut?
Santino Fontana: It was Sunday in the Park with George in 2008. I had just moved to New York not too long before that, and was excited but also terrified. I was also understudying George. I never went on, thank God. I think I was most afraid of going on for George.

What was one of the first Broadway shows you ever saw?
SF
: I saw One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Gary Sinise, which I loved. It's an epic story and a Steppenwolf production. It had a great ensemble, and Gary Sinise was wonderful. The performances were so great. Amy Morton was Nurse Ratched.

What qualities does Michael Dorsey have that you love?
SF
: He is so passionate. He is willing to sacrifice everything for his art. And he has a lot to learn. It's exciting to play someone who is so passionate, and doesn't hold anything back. And what he has to learn is how to behave as a human being.

You have supported the work of New York Stage and Film. For people who don’t know about it, they are dedicated to helping artists develop and produce works, and conduct the Powerhouse Theater program in collaboration with Vassar College. What do you like about the the organization?  
SF: It is the best place for developing new work. I have gone up there so many times to work on new plays, as well as musicals, and made great friends. I love going up there. It's like summer camp for actors, and you get to work on the coolest stuff.

What do you adore about doing Tootsie?
SF
: It’s really fun. We all really get along. I imagine it’s really entertaining to watch. And it’s really entertaining to be in.

When the curtain comes down, how do you get back to Santino?
SF: There is a lot that goes on to get ready. So taking the makeup off helps. And also taking off all the layers.  

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For more of the best of Broadway this season, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in July 2019.

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