Final Bow: At Tootsie, You Have a One in Six Chance to See These Two Crack Up Onstage
Andy Grotelueschen and Sarah Stiles are ready for their fast-talking Broadway characters to ride off into the sunset and open a bed and breakfast.
Tootsie has been hailed as one of Broadway's funniest shows, and it has a Tony Award for book writer Robert Horn to prove it. Of course great material is nothing without great performers, and Tony nominees Andy Grotelueschen and Sarah Stiles have been fortifying the comedy front since Tootsie opened at the Marquis Theatre last April.
Grotelueschen plays Jeff, a floundering playwright and best friend to our central character Michael Dorsey (Santino Fontana), the struggling actor who poses as Dorothy Michaels to revive his career. Michael ends up snagging the part of the Nurse in a Romeo and Juliet sequel musical, Juliet's Curse, a role his friend/ex-girlfriend Sandy (Stiles) had her eye on (though Stiles still bewilderedly self-reflects, "Why is she auditioning for the Nurse? She's just so wrong for it").
Spoiler alert: Sandy and Jeff are singing love songs by the end, but their composer David Yazbek makes them work for their happy ending with some of the most long-winded tunes ever to grace a Broadway stage (you can watch our video of Yazbek singing "Jeff Sums It Up" here). After the show's final performance on January 5, 2020, they can let all of those words fall out of their heads. But I have a feeling the mixture of hilarious and haunting Tootsie memories they shared in this Final Bow interview will last a lifetime.
1. What is your favorite line that you get to say or sing?
Andy Grotelueschen: It's when I'm in the bar scene with Michael. It's the first time that he's Dorothy, and he kind of hits on me. He says, "You're a very handsome and striking man. You must be very disciplined to stay this stalwart." And I say, "I believe the secret to achieving any goal is do what you can and tell people that was the goal."
Sarah Stiles: My favorite line is definitely, "I will ride you." I just love what happens to Andy's face after I say it. We crack up a lot.
Andy: You know how at an industrial plant they will say like, "It's been 346 days since there's been an accident?" We have something that says how many days since Sarah and Andy broke.
Sarah: It's hard to get past six.
2. What is your cast's best inside joke?
Andy: Sometimes we play games…
Sarah: One day, Santino said, "Do weird hand gestures today." So everyone was doing strange hand gestures the whole show. Cut to…
Andy: Michael McGrath comes in for his scene in Act 2 with me and Santino and does not move his arms.
Sarah: At all.
Andy: I recognized it pretty quickly, but Santino didn't quite pick up on it until Michael gestured at me with his whole torso. All three of us almost leaped over the edge and Michael had to start moving his arms because we all would have just broken apart.
3. What was the worst technical difficulty you experienced during the run, and how was it handled?
Andy: Santino and I were downstage going through a scene and the closet door just popped open. There wasn't a good cover, so I just screamed.
Sarah: It was just one of those moments when you're backstage listening to the show and you're like, "What the hell is going on out there?"
Andy: And then we talked about how there was a ghost and it just made no sense. It wasn't a masterful cover.
4. What is the most interesting present you received at the stage door?
Sarah: I get some cool crossover gifts. I did this movie Steven Universe and I played this crazy character named Spinel, and they like to make Spinel Sandy. There are a couple of videos of Spinel singing "What's Gonna Happen."
5. Who is the coolest person to come see the show?
Sarah: Michael Keaton and Billy Crystal were pretty cool. And then Billy Crystal cast us in his movie, which was even cooler.
Andy: That was an added bonus.
6. The two of you have the show's wordiest songs with "Jeff Sums It Up" and "What's Gonna Happen." What have been your most memorable lyric flubs?
Sarah: His is really good. And it happened a couple times.
Andy: Very early on in the song, I'm sitting on the couch and singing to Michael, detailing what kind of person he is: I say that what he's doing "no one except a megalomaniacal actor with nothing to really lose would consider." So "megalomaniacal" is a hard word to say. And I get to that point in the song, and I just say "no one but a [gibberish] with nothing to really lose would consider." Then of course adrenaline takes over, and you get up, and you dance, and your legs are rubber, and you finish the song, and go offstage. Afterward, Santino was like, "You OK? You have a little stroke there?"
Sarah: That is really what it sounded like.
Andy: The next night, we're sitting there on the couch, and I get there: Same thing. The third night I just sort of shouted the word, and then I was back on the horse. That [knocks on wood] thankfully is behind us.
Sarah: My song luckily is so fast, I don't think the audience knows if I've boogered through. But Santino and Andy do — and they get real scared when that happens. Because there is a feeling that if I go off the rails, I don't know that I'd ever get back on. Oh god, now I'm nervous.
7. What does Santino's backstage transformation into Dorothy Michaels look like?
Sarah: It's like a human being attacked by raptors. There are eight people on the change. It's quite insane. We don't usually get to see it, but one night there was a technical error.
Andy: That's right. The trap didn't go down at the end of Act 1 when he disappears and comes back in the red dress. It was Barry Busby's job in the ensemble to get him and pull him off.
Sarah: We were coming offstage and Lilli [Cooper] grabs us and goes, "The change is happening in the wings!" So all three of us were just staring at the change, so excited to witness it.
Andy: It's like a NASCAR pit stop. But my favorite part is that Santino always does his own lipstick.
8. Tootsie makes fun of some of the weirder jobs actors often find themselves doing in their careers. What is the strangest project you've ever auditioned for?
Sarah: I did a self-tape for the show I'm Dying Up Here to play Toni the Tiger— a groupie for comedians. Every single scene she does in that episode is a pretty bizarre sex scene, including baby voices and dancing to "Lime in the Coconut." So I did that in the privacy of my own home to my iPhone camera. But then I got it. I don't think it really occurred to me that I would have to translate that into a live experience. But it wound up being one of the most fun roles I've ever gotten to do.
Andy: I played a cow in Into the Woods. And it's one of those things where as an actor, once they see you do one thing, they're like, "Oh, you do that." So it was maybe six or nine months— every week I was getting a different animal to play. And I was like, "Oh great, I found my niche."
9. Sandy spends a good amount of time avoiding auditions while Jeff perpetually avoids writing his play. What are your favorite procrastination techniques?
Andy: Love Island? [laughs]
Sarah: Shut your face. I can't believe you outed me. All I'm saying is if you happen to get the flu anytime soon, you could sit on your couch and watch that. It's like 50 hours.
Andy: Regular things. Online shopping, but not buying anything. I also watch This Old House.
10. What do you think is next for Jeff and Sandy as a couple?
Andy: It makes me a little wistful to think about them going forward.
Sarah: I think they're gonna make it. They're a perfect match.
Andy: Their lives have both been reaching their respective breaking points. I just feel like they're gonna hold on to each other.
Sarah: I wonder what they're gonna do, though. Maybe open a bed-and-breakfast? They might retire from show business.
Andy: At this point I think they would both be OK with it.
Sarah: I agree. I think Sandy just needs to feel like she has a purpose and she's good at something. And she's good at Jeff. I feel like she could really get into just making a home with somebody. She's not in it for the art. Do you know what I mean? [laughs] She just wants to be loved.
Andy: And Jeff…yeah, he wrote a play. That's fine. He'll be a tinkerer.