Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Mrs. Doubtfire (Broadway)

♣♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Free-spirited and never a boring father, Daniel Hillard (Rob McClure) loves his three children: Lydia (Analise Scarpaci), Christopher (Jake Ryan Flynn), and Nattie (Avery Sell) more than anything else in the world. As a husband, though, he leaves a lot to be desired. Being a struggling actor does not help and wife Miranda (Jennifer Gambatese) feels she is doing this alone, until one day she snaps and decides to call it quits. Appearing before a court judge in San Francisco, a divorce is granted, and they get shared custody of the kids, in the condition that he find a stable job and rent a place that is appropriate for his son and two daughters. When he finds out that she is hiring a nanny for the children, he comes up with the brilliant idea of earning his keep and being with them at the same time. With the help of his make-up artist brother Frank (Brad Oscar) and his husband Andre (J. Harrison Ghee), they come up with the character of Scottish veteran nanny extraordinaire Mrs. Doubtfire.

At its core, Mrs. Doubtfire is still a story about divorce, and divorce is never a fun topic to either discuss, go through or devise a musical about. It is in this regard that the musical numbers help, but without losing the aspects that made the 1993 film version so memorable and entertaining primarily thanks to Robin Williams’ brilliant portrayal and hilarious one-liners. Mrs. Doubtfire the musical retains many of those factors, and then adds some more in order to distinguish itself from the onscreen version. And it works!

The musical is not as ROFL as, let’s say, The Book of Mormon. However, it is one of those Broadway comedies where it is not at all uncommon to hear lighthearted and sustained chuckles in the audience. It is that entertaining, to be honest, but without its take on the topic of divorce taking the backseat. In fact, the anatomy of a divorce still very much pervades the entire show, from the evident tension between the once blissful pair who have fallen out of love all the way to the scarring effects it has on the children.

McClure is a revelation. Come on, it is hard to top Robin Williams. He made this character totally his own. He IS Mrs. Doubtfire, which makes stepping into her shoes very hard to satisfyingly fulfill. What McClure does is not to parrot what made Williams’ portrayal so remarkable and enduring. Instead, he delves into the psyche of Daniel Hillard and extracts whatever he could to display both the showman in him as well as the loving father he has always been. Of course, any Mrs. Doubtfire rendition would be incomplete without an actor’s versatility when it comes to voice acting and movement, in neither of which Hillard disappoints.

The rest of the cast do their jobs well, albeit without eclipsing the real star of the show. Almost all of them are given musical numbers, either on their own or in tandem with other characters. As an example: Miranda has “The Shape of Things to Come”; Frank and Andre, “Make Me a Woman”; and even Stuart with “No”; while Lydia gets several songs reflecting on the current family setup. The choreography helps a lot in maintaining a vivacious vibe all throughout the show. In this regard, “Make Me a Woman” easily comes to mind and does leave a lasting impression.

Not only do the songs accentuate the prevailing emotion at the moment, but they also flesh out certain characters that remained one-dimensional in the film version, like Frank and Stu. Here, they have legit subplots of their own which give a glimpse of their motivations for doing what they do. Suddenly, Frank is no longer just the brother, but also a husband and aspiring dad of his own. Stuart is no longer just the douchebag Pierce Brosnan portrayed him to be, but also a decent albeit cocky father figure who wants to fill in the void.

Overall, you will not regret watching this show. It’s hilarious. It’s heartwarming. And it’s definitely going to be another certified Broadway hit. So get your tickets while this is still in previews. Those prices are definitely bound to go all the way up.

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