Drew Becker (Photo provided by PPAC)

Drew Becker is just the third person to play Michael Dorsey and Dorothy Michaels. He’s the lead actor in “Tootsie,” the musical playing at the Providence Performing Arts Center this week.

Dustin Hoffman originated the role in the 1982 film. Santino Fontana originated the role in the Broadway musical, earning a Tony Award in 2019 as “Best Lead in a Musical.” And now Becker’s taking over the role in the first national tour.

The storyline follows Dorsey, an actor with a tough-to-work-with reputation who decides to dress as a woman to land a role in a Broadway musical. In the original film, Dorsey was working on landing a role in a daytime soap opera.

The biggest challenges for Becker have involved his costume changes. “I have a whole glam squad to get me through the changes,” said Becker in our recent phone interview. He was in Grand Rapids, just “grabbing a smoothie” when we chatted.

“I have two people dedicated to my changes on the tour, plus a local dresser or two.”

One of Becker’s quickest costume changes happens at the end of Act One. “I have 18 seconds. Literally.”

Drew Becker at a PPAC press event (Photo: Ken Abrams)

Becker was cast in the show mid-2021 and started prepping for the role immediately. “I got a pair of practice heels at Target” to get used to them. “My family had a lot of fun with that.”

Becker’s first audition happened two months into Covid pandemic, in May 2020. “Everything was either self-taped or on Zoom.” After his first self-taped submission, “I had ten to twelve callbacks after that. The first several were self-tapes, and then Zooming in front of the whole creative team.”

Then there were some “chemistry reads” via Zoom, seeing how Becker played with other actors. “Then I interacted in person with several actresses being considered for the role of Julie.”

Overall, Becker found it to be a “cool process. This was new for all of us. We got to come together and figure out how to put it all together.”

Becker’s been interested in theater since the fifth grade. Growing up outside Gettysburg, PA, Becker was able to see a lot of local theater productions. His mother took him to see “Seussical: The Musical” and he asked, “How do I get up there?” He was hooked.

He signed up for some theater classes, with the encouragement of his parents. “I was an active kid with an imagination, and my parents wanted us to try everything. Even sports. I tried soccer at the Y. I was the one out in the field picking dandelions.”

Becker has signed up with “Tootsie” through the end of the tour. “Five hundred performances sounds good to me. And there’s potential for a third year.”

The reactions to the show so far, says Becker, have been good. “We are very fortunate to be working in one of the genuine musical comedies out there right now. It’s so special to bring laughter to people.”

“Tootsie” runs through Sunday, October 30 at the Providence Performing Arts Center. For tickets and information, visit www.ppacri.org or call the box office at 401.421.ARTS.

Tootsie Cast Members Drew Becker, Ashley Alexandra, and Matthew Rella (Photo: Ken Abrams)

Frank O'Donnell

Frank O’Donnell has worn many different hats. As an actor, he’s performed in three professional theatrical productions and countless community theater productions. He’s written, produced and directed four holiday-themed shows and once helmed the Notfanuttin’ Players, specializing in audience-participation dinner shows. He’s been performing as a stand-up comedian since 1982 and has been inducted into the RI Comedy Hall of Fame. He’s written comedy for other performers, like Bob Hope, Jay Leno and Joe Piscopo. He’s opened for performers as diverse as the Judds, Michael Bolton, Chicago, David Brenner, Gilbert Gottfried and more. He’s been writing reviews and features about theater in Rhode Island for better than two decades. His work to help save the monarch butterfly has been chronicled on NBC Nightly News and he is president of the Keri Anne O’Donnell Memorial Fund. A native of Providence and long-time resident of North Providence, Frank now calls Jamestown home. He and his wife Karen – who he met when both were students at Classical High School – have four children, and recently became grandparents.