That’s probably what you (and I) thought when word got out that the 1993 comedy starring Robin Williams would become a musical! Mrs. Doubtfire, the musical comedy, debuted at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in 2019. It set a record there, selling the most tickets for a new musical in the history of the theatre. The show is produced by Kevin McCollum who has received three Tony Awards for Best Musical (In the Heights, Avenue Q, and Rent). Enter four time-Tony Award winning director Jerry Zaks, add in a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell and music/lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick (the team behind Something Rotten!). With a powerhouse list of Broadway bigs piecing together the show, you should have reason enough to give Mrs. Doubtfire a shot. Pick up your smartphones, shrug and say “what the hell?” (which is actually one of the catchier songs of the stage version) and get yourself a ticket.
Rob McClure puts so much effort and dedication into his role of Daniel Hillard, a man who goes to great lengths (like dressing up like an old woman) to spend time with his kids after a divorce leaves him with limited visitation. Sure that seems weird and illegal, but the beauty of Broadway is that you can set aside real life and bend the rules. We know this is all in good fun and could never really happen. It would be unfair to say his performance carries the show, because everyone has their time to shine in this show. But, it would be outrageous (I can hear myself saying this as Mrs. Doubtfire herself) if he doesn’t get a Tony nomination for his dual roles as Daniel and Doubtfire. Mrs. Doubtfire is filled with laughter- I missed the sound of a roaring audience- and McClure really pulls the audience in. The way he can go from Daniel to Mrs. Doubtfire in seconds- without even heading backstage- is a performance in itself. There’s no cuts or reshoots like in the movie. He throws on his wig and bodysuit, and a cream pie to the face, before your eyes multiple times. The infamous restaurant scene when Daniel’s schtick is revealed isn’t as in-depth as it is in the movie, but it’s still one of the better parts of the musical and so funny to watch.
Alternatively, McClure can bring the audience to sniffles as he has to part ways with his kids and can’t imagine being without them. A song (“Just Pretend”) with Analise Scarpaci, who plays oldest daughter Lydia, is a more serious moment of the musical and a standout number in the list of original tracks composed for the stage. His performance is so passionate and emotional, so again I say, Tony nomination?
Though the songs aren’t too memorable overall, I appreciate that so many of the characters are featured individually. Jenn Gambatese (as Miranda Hillard) gets to show off in the beginning of Act Two with “A Shape of Things to Come”. “Make Me A Woman” is the musical’s version of the Fiddler on the Roof tune that plays as Daniel gets help from his brother and partner to create Mrs. Doubtfire. “Playing With Fire” is a personal favorite because I absolutely love Charity Angel Dawson (and just saw her in Waitress) who plays social worker Wanda. “Big Fat No” shows off Mark Evans’ vocals and though his character Stu wasn’t nearly as prominent as the movie version, it was still necessary to have him featured. Scarpaci, along with Jake Ryan Flynn and Avery Sell as the Hillard children, deserve so much credit. They’re amazing performers who undoubtedly grew up so much since Covid forced everything to shut down in 2020. I hope they go far and continue to add many incredible credits to their resumes. Their featured song, “What the Hell” is pretty great.
As I sat in the audience (finally, after an original ticket date of April 2020) and watched Rob McClure transform into that beloved Scottish nanny, I answered my initial question of “why?”. Why is this a musical?
Love is why.
Someone loved this movie so much that they wanted to bring it to life again, on stage, for a new generation. They wanted Mrs. Doubtfire to continue on, with music to enhance the story, a fresh look and something an audience could simply enjoy with friends and family. And about the friends and family who support you. They thought it could work.
Does Mrs. Doubtfire really work as a musical? I mean, it doesn’t need to be a musical. But I could think of plenty of movies that didn’t need to be adapted for the stage yet they were anyway. Mrs. Doubtfire, the movie, probably means something to the majority of the people coming to see the musical. Maybe you watched it as a kid, or with your kids who are now grown up. Maybe you adored the masterful Robin Williams (of course, who didn’t?). Maybe you just yearn for those silly and slightly unrealistic ‘90s comedies that “they just don’t make anymore”. Maybe you never stopped incorporating “it was a run-by fruiting” into your conversations whenever you can…which, unfortunately, just seemed forced into the musical. Overall, the cast of characters on stage brings out the best of the movie and will help you feel all the feels that left you decades ago. It’s fun and has heart. That’s more than enough for me, poppets.