REVIEW: Broadway in Cincinnati’s “Mrs. Doutbtfire: the Musical” 

By Adam Schwartz

For those who have not seen the 1993 movie Mrs. Doubtfire, the premise is this: A recently divorced dad takes on the appearance of an elderly nanny to be with his kids, while trying to prove to the courts that he is worthy of being a good father to his children. 

Rob McClure (Daniel Hillard). Photo by Joan Marcus. Photo by Joan Marcus
Rob McClure (Daniel Hillard) and cast in Mrs. Doubtfire. Photo by Joan Marcus.

This production, directed by the legendary Jerry Zaks, is overall enjoyable with some great laughs and comedic moments.

When it comes to adapting movies into musicals, there are several ways you can go about this. Write a musical heavily inspired by the movie, but a departure from the source material; write a musical that elevates the existing source material; or use the movie as a jumping off point for your show. Mrs. Doubtfire does not necessarily land squarely in any of the above three categories. The plot is the same as the movie, even down to scenes being replicated either line by line, or physically (dancing with the vacuum and the pie being used to mask Daniel’s lack of makeup being the two most memorable). The show is very well produced, has warmth and laughs, but it plays it very “safe.”

Strong Performances in Mrs. Doubtfire: the Musical

The actors in the show are giving their all in this performance. The acting is the highlight for me. Rob McClure as the titular Mrs. Doubtfire/Daniel does an excellent job making the character his own. There is no attempt to recapture Robin Williams’ nuance, rather McClure takes the character by the reins and puts his distinct mark on it. His command of the stage both with line delivery and physical comedy is impressive to say the least. Another star in the show is Lydia, played by Giselle Gutierrez. Her vocal performance might be the strongest in the show, giving powerful belts and well tempered duets. The rest of the cast is firing on all cylinders, from the ensemble to the other main actors, everyone is giving 110% the whole show. 

The Music

The music of Mrs. Doubtfire is not the most remarkable. The lyrics and music written by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick do not call attention to themselves. However, the song ‘Easy Peasy’ is a particular standout. The frantic number successfully showcases the feeling of trying to cook along with a YouTube video while trying to understand obscure cooking techniques. It perfectly encapsulates Daniel’s inability to initially provide a good cooked dinner for his kids during his first night as Mrs. Doubtfire. However, a good metric I have is: am I able to leave the theatre humming any of the musical numbers. With Mrs. Doubtfire, while I smiled, I couldn’t sing a single song. Maybe it was the rain…

Rob McClure (Daniel Hillard). Photo by Joan Marcus. Photo by Joan Marcus
Maggie Lakis (Miranda Hillard) and Rob McClure (Daniel Hillard) and cast in “Mrs. Doubtfire.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

The Theme

There is an element of this show that needs to be mentioned: that is the issue of men being in a dress is inherently funny. It is 2023. The trans community is one that has been dealt hardship and outward bigotry both by citizens and by politicians alike. I’m surprised it is not addressed in the show, given how it makes references to modern day pop culture (including the recently ended ‘Golden Bachelor’).

For example, in ‘Make Me a Woman’ where at the start four ‘pretty’ ladies are brought out, Princess Diana, Jackie Kennedy, etc. all being played by female actors. Then after clarifying the nature of Mrs. Doubtfire four more women are brought out, Margaret Thatcher, Julia Child, etc. all being played by men. For me the message here is a bit off-putting, and perpetuates a trope I hope America is outgrowing.

Overall 

Mrs. Doubtfire is a fine show, well produced. This would be a good entry point to the Broadway musical as it is a familiar story, but not too heavy with obscure Broadway tropes. It is a story of a family trying to stay together, so it is a good family show, and a warm non-holiday entertainment.

Ultimately, it made me remember when I was a young performer.  We would often play a game called “Would this make a Good Musical?” to kill time during rehearsals. We entertained ourselves by developing certain movies such as Star Wars or The Hunger Games as musicals, because to a degree those might just work.  Others however, did not. Decide for yourself where Mrs. Doubtfire: The New Musical Comedy falls. 

Tickets to Mrs. Doubtfire: the Musical

Mrs. Doubtfire is currently running at the Aronoff Center until December 17th. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.cincinnatiarts.org/events/detail/mrs-doubtfire.