Theater Review: MRS. DOUBTFIRE THE MUSICAL (National Tour at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco)

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by Christopher Beale on July 4, 2024

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area,Tours


In Mrs. Doubtfire The Musical, a familiar San Francisco-based plot meets with the Tony-nominated actor Rob McClure, who makes Robin Williams’ classic ‘drag’ character come to life in an entirely new way. But the road from the 1987 Anne Fine novel that inspired the franchise on its way to the Orpheum Theatre stage — where the national tour opened last night — was a roller coaster of ups and downs.

Rob McClure

Released in November of 1993 the iconic film Mrs. Doubtfire, directed by Chris Columbus and starring late comedian Robin Williams, grossed an estimated $441 million US dollars. That approaches a billion dollars in 2024 money.

A decade after the film’s release conversations began about bringing the timeless tale to Broadway, but it wasn’t until 2020 when Mrs. Doubtfire The Musical finally made it through development and onto the stage. Produced by Kevin McCollum (Tony Award for In the HeightsAvenue Q, and Rent), directed by Jerry Zaks, with music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick, and a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, this new production had a rock star production team, a script, and a cast headed up by the multi-talented McClure.

Giselle Gutierrez, Cody Braverman, Emerson Mae Chan, Maggie Lakis and Rob McLure

It opened on Broadway quite inconveniently in March of 2020. Three days later the production was shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The show eventually resumed performances in the fall of 2021 to relatively positive reviews. A month later, however, with the COVID variant Omicron surging, performances halted again in January for a 9-week hiatus. After an additional month, it re-opened, finally closing on May 29, 2022. After international runs in Manchester and London, the North American Tour kicked off in 2023 with McLure still in the lead.

“I have had a long road with Mrs. Doubtfire The Musical,” McClure told me, “and San Fran is a really special place to bring it.” McClure’s performance alone is worth the price of admission. He does voices, tap dances in an old-lady body and a mask (makeup and prosthetics by Tommy Kurzman), and manages to not only make Daniel heartfelt and believable, but accomplishes the larger task of making Mrs. Doubtfire his own and not an attempted channeling of Williams’ characterization.

Axel Bernard Rimmele, Giselle Gutierrez, Rob McLure and Kennedy Pitney

The musical follows the plot of the feature film pretty closely with a few key exceptions.

In the musical, we meet the Hillard family. Daniel, a loving but ultimately irresponsible father whose fed up wife Miranda files for divorce and in the process is granted sole custody of the couple’s children. A court liaison is tasked with making sure Daniel can get a job and secure a stable apartment in three months time, only then can adjustments be made to the custody arrangement.

Instead of following the court order to the letter, Daniel — an out of work voice actor and impressionist — comes up with a scheme to stay close to his children in an elaborate disguise. With the help of his stylist brother, and a considerable amount of padding and latex he becomes Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, an elderly Scottish nanny with a vague accent and sharp wit.

Maggie Lakis and Rob McLure

Ultimately, Euphegenia is hired by Miranda to be the children’s nanny. Euphegenia and Miranda grow close, the children thrive, all while Daniel is watching his ex-wife move on with her life … including dating a guy who looks like “James Bond.”

Daniel is struggling to get his life together outside of his ex-wife’s household as well and picks up a part-time job as a shipping clerk at a local TV station. One evening while playing around on the set of a long-stale children’s TV show, he catches the attention of the station manager who wants to hear Daniel’s ideas for hosting the show.

Nik Alexander, Aaron Kaburick and Company

Miranda discovers Euphegenia’s identity one chaotic evening when Daniel and Euphegenia must appear in the same restaurant at the same time, and his family life completely collapses.

Ultimately his personal growth and love for his children become more significant than the months spent dressed up as an old lady and Miranda asks the judge to let Daniel see the children. Mrs. Doubtfire is about divorce, and the surviving bond between parents and children.

Giselle Gutierrez, Cody Braverman, Emerson Mae Chan, Maggie Lakis and Rob McLure

Some of the movie’s familiar gags are there, the pie in the face and “Hellooooooo,” the chaotic restaurant scene, the failed and fiery attempt at cooking and the “run by fruiting,” but a few key changes to locations have been made to update and streamline the show for the stage.

In a unique casting Miranda Hillard — a character who’s key trait is establishing boundaries with, and then eventually divorcing her husband night after night — is played by McClure’s real-life wife Maggie Lakis. The chemistry is pretty obvious; it’s smart casting.

Nik Alexander, Aaron Kaburick, Romelda Teron Benjamin, and Rob McLure

Other standouts include Aaron Kaburick and Nik Alexander as the super-queer, super-camp and super-lovable couple Frank Hillard and Andre Mayem. The pair shine in “Make Me a Woman” as they decide just what kind of disguise they want to put Daniel into. It’s hard to play campy gay without making fun of gay people, but these two nailed it and were a delight to behold.

In the next number the kids have their big showstopper in “What the Hell” led by Giselle Gutierrez’s squeaky clean pop vocals. The other Hillard kiddos in the play — Christopher and Natalie — are each played by a pair of young actors who split up the performances, but on opening night Sam Bird and Emerson Mae Chan were precious in the roles.

Leo Roberts and Rob McLure

When I saw Bianca Rivera-Irions walk on stage as TV Producer Janet Lundy, I could not wait for her to show me a powerful executive woman. I wanted her to be a strong character, but ultimately Lundy lacked depth. Whether that is writing, direction or performance choice I’m not sure but I wanted more from that character. Romelda Teron Benjamin gave her Wanda Sellner the required toughness to be an officer of the court but with humanity, poise and expert comedic-timing.

The band is strong, as are the vocalists, but to be frank the songs are not memorable; I cannot remember any of the music 24 hours later. Thankfully the comedy is spot on. In a perfect blending of old and new, this fresh adaptation is like visiting an old friend. It’s a fitting tribute not only to its source literature and blockbuster film, but to Robin Williams, the late actor who made Mrs. Doubtfire one of the most beloved characters in American pop-culture.

Rob McLure and Company

“I missed the pool scene honestly,” mentioned one theatergoer on opening night. “It was like suddenly there was a fruit cart and it didn’t make sense.” OK. but a lot of the feel-good moments were there, and so was the talent. I overheard another patron shout that Mrs. Doubtfire was creeping her out! But she seemed to enjoy the show. I sure did. Mrs. Doubtfire has come a long way since she first appeared in print almost 40 years ago, but she lives on in this hilarious musical comedy.

Giselle Gutierrez

photos by Joan Marcus

Mrs. Doubtfire
national tour
reviewed at the Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St.
for tickets, visit Broadway SF
ends on July 28, 2024 in San Francisco
tour continues; for dates and cities, visit Doubtfire Musical

Christopher J. Beale is a journalist, producer, and podcaster based in San Francisco

Rob McClure

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