Adapted from the classic 1982 comedic film of the same name, Tootsie opened at Broadway’s Marquis Theater on Tuesday featuring a score by The Band’s Visit Tony Award-winner David Yazbek and a book by 13 writer Robert Horn.
The over-the-top musical comedy centers on Michael Dorsey (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s Santino Fontana), a struggling actor with a big ego who takes on the female persona of “Dorothy Michaels” in a desperate attempt to score his next acting gig — a ploy that works a little too well.
Dorsey’s fellow actor and eventual love interest Julie is played by Lilli Cooper, a theater veteran who played Martha in the original cast of Spring Awakening and recently starred as Sandy Cheeks in the Broadway production of SpongeBob SquarePants. Here, Cooper breaks down the songs that inspire her character — and the ones she just loves jamming to offstage.
Cooper says she’ll often listen to this song on repeat, discovering new things about it on each listen. “Yebba’s voice exudes emotion, and life experiences,” she explains. “Her tight riffs and harmonies are delicious and so satisfying. I’ve even used this song as a warmup because her range is insane and it hits every pocket of sound so beautifully.”
“Rozzi,” Joshua Tree
“There is such a beautiful simplicity to this song, starting with the words ‘I’m selfish,'” Cooper says. “There’s a bare honesty that feels so relatable. My character, Julie, sings about the memory of love, the sacrifices we make for and in spite of love, and this song is all about that.”
“Have Mercy,” Eryn Allen Kane
Cooper calls the entirely a cappella track “a testament to how all-encompassing the human voice can be.” She notes, “Kane makes such a full, rich sound using just voices and it’s incredibly powerful.”
“Coconut Oil,” Lizzo
Cooper’s favorite lyrics from the track: “I remember back, back in school when I wasn’t cool… If I knew then what I know now.” The song hits close to home for Cooper and her Tootsie character because it is “all about coming into your own and finding what you need in your life to be yourself.” The track doesn’t easily fit into a distinct genre — another reason Cooper resonates with it. “I love when music surprises you,” she adds.
“Brown Skin Girl,” Leon Bridges
“I can get on board with just about anything that celebrates the beauty of black women, and this song does just that and perfectly,” says Cooper. “Bridges has this doo-wop vibe to his music that I love. There really isn’t much new music of that style and it feels like he takes us back in time.”
“Flesh & Bone,” Sammy Rae
Cooper recalls getting chills the first time she heard Sammy Rae’s voice. “The style reminds me of a song I sing in Tootsie, so the vibe and the subject really inspires my performance,” she says. Cooper highlights these lines in particular: “I need to know if I am flesh and bone, am I still growing or am I full grown?”
“Tennessee Whiskey,” Chris Stapleton
“This song has one of the most satisfying riffs ever and Stapleton’s voice is so beautiful,” Cooper explains. “Listening to incredibly skilled vocalists is the perfect motivation before I step onstage to perform.”
“Relatively Well Dressed,” Lolo
There’s a moment in the film version of Tootsie when Cooper’s character, Julie, is approached at a bar by someone “she just doesn’t have time for,” Cooper says. “I love this song because it parallels that moment so well. I think it’s so clever, funny and real — not to mention Lolo’s crazy voice that I could listen to forever.” (The artist, a.k.a. Lauren Pritchard, also happens to be one of Cooper’s original Spring Awakening co-stars.)
“Medicate,” Strange Names
The track is one of Cooper’s favorite songs off Strange Names’ newest album, Data, released in February of last year. “They turn electronic and synth sounds into these melodic tunes that are impossible not to groove along to,” she says. “Listening to their music always puts me in a good mood. And I love their fusion of live instrumentals with the looper and synth.”
“Trees,” Nick Blaemire feat. Jo Lampert
“I love everything about this song,” Cooper expresses. “It’s another one I can listen to on repeat and hear different things every time. It is serving old school R&B, hip hop, complex lyrics and vocal gymnastics — everything I need in a song to pump me up before performing.”