First let’s get rid of the elephant in the room- Rob McClure, hardworking star of Broadway’s “Mrs. Doubtfire” is NOT Robin Williams who created the 1993 movie role.
However, he doesn’t have to be; he just has to be the fun-loving talented Daniel Hilliard who masquerades as a Scottish nanny to be with his kids. McClure, as evidenced by his leading role in “Chaplin,” is extremely talented. His imitations are spot-on and he possesses comic physicality. McClure will likely receive a Tony nomination for best actor and he well deserves it. The guy works so hard that it’s exhausting watching him. Whether he’s doing a quick change between his two characters, trying not to get discovered or just being Daniel, McClure captures the manic spirit of the character.
"Mrs. Doubtfire" is a heartwarming story that extols the joys of fatherhood. Early in the story, the audience realizes that Daniel and his wife Miranda, (talented Jenn Gambatese) will never get back together, but reconciliation isn’t Daniel’s main goal. He adores his children and is distraught when the judge refuses to award him joint custody after the couple’s divorce. Unless he can prove that he has a job and a suitable dwelling, Miranda will be granted sole custody and he can only see them on weekends.
When he learns that Miranda is looking for a nanny, he gets his make-up artist brother (Brad Oscar) and his partner Andre (J. Harrison Ghee) to disguise him as an older ‘substantial’ Scottish nanny. One of the issues with the show is that it feels like it’s been padded with unnecessary ensemble numbers. (Maybe to distinguish it from the movie) When he implores his brother to “Make Me A Woman,” Daniel and the audience are presented with a group of possibilities including Cher, Evita, and Donna Summers. “No, someone older”. And then Janet Reno, Julia Child and others appear. Though some of the adults chuckled in recognition at the celebrities, the overly-long number and its humor were lost on most of the kids in the audience. Later Daniel as Mrs Doubtfire asks Siri for help cooking and a series of celebrity chefs appear. Daniel must impress the family service worker, Wanda Sellner, here played by Charity Angel Dawson. In another number he has a nightmare about her. Surrounded by a group of hulking Mrs. Doubfires, Wanda transforms into a diva with a belting voice. Though her voice rocks the theater, the actual number felt unnecessary. The show would work better if some of the numbers were trimmed and references were more current.
Directed by Jerry Zaks, “Mrs. Doubtfire” is the first family-friendly musical on Broadway in a long while, and the show works hard to appeal to grownups as well as youngsters. Sometimes that balance causes problems with its dated adult references. However, youngsters will love the show with its bright costumes and Daniel’s funny shtick. Some of the music is clever and it’s all ‘clean,’ and youngsters can identify with Daniel’s three children. As the oldest child Lydia, Maria Dalanno, (stepping into the role for this performance,) is impressive as the eldest child coping with the divorce and trying to mediate between her bickering parents.
The best numbers feature McClure doing what he does well-move! In “He Lied to Me”, Daniel bounces back and forth between dinner with his family as Mrs. Doubtfire and a prospective job interview. As the pace gets more frantic, the actor gets better and better. And the scene gets funnier and funnier.
With music and Lyrics by Karey Kirkpatrick and Wayne Kirkpatrick and glorious costumes by Catherine Zuber, “Mrs. Doubtfire” is an old-fashioned musical, full of spectacle and color and upbeat tunes and it’s sure to entrance young theatergoers.
No- Doug McClure isn’t Robin Williams but half the audience was under 14. This was the next generation of theatergoers. Most would probably ask “Robin Who?” As they stood and applauded wildly.
The Stephen Sondheim Theatre
124 W. 43rd St.
New York City