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Review Roundup: MRS. DOUBTFIRE Opens on Broadway


Mrs. Doubtfire has officially opened at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

Mrs. DoubtfireMrs. Doubtfire, the new musical comedy, officially opened on Broadway tonight, December 5, at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre (124 W 43rd St).

Daniel Hillard, a struggling, out-of-work actor, will do anything for his kids. After losing custody in a messy divorce, he creates the kindly alter ego of Scottish nanny Euphegenia Doubtfire in a desperate attempt to stay in their lives. As his new character takes on a life of its own, Mrs. Doubtfire teaches Daniel more than he bargained for about how to be a father. A hysterical and heartfelt story about holding onto your loved ones against all odds, Mrs. Doubtfire is the musical comedy we need right now - one that proves we're better together.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Maya Phillips, New York Times: O'Farrell and the Kirkpatrick brothers, whose previous Broadway outing was the 2015 musical "Something Rotten!," generate a smattering of laughs with the original material, like Frank's quirk of shouting whenever he lies, and the second half of Daniel's makeover song, when the list of fashion inspirations for a matronly Scottish nanny change from the glamorous Jackie O. and Princess Di to the more practical Margaret Thatcher and Julia Child. And a chorus of singing and dancing internet chefs, there via the magic of a tablet to help Mrs. Doubtfire cook dinner, is hilariously interrupted by an ad for IBS. Yet the scenes that draw the biggest laughs here are still the ones that are almost identical to the ones in the film.

Chris Jones, Daily News: A good time for all ages, despite our beloved, battered Broadway, is exactly what the audience-friendly, warm-centered, modestly scaled "Mrs. Doubtfire" delivers. In other seasons, this show might have looked like more of the same. Fair enough. It's retro. It's old-school musical comedy. It's no font of formative innovation.

Naveen Kamal, Variety: The Kirkpatricks' score seems bent on making up for its lack of distinct point of view with at least some measure of variety - a bit of rock 'n' roll (benign), a couple of beatboxing puppets (impressive) and a lot of genre non-specific songs in the style of contemporary musical theater (inoffensive). If the score has a unifying principle, it's duly resisting catchiness or memorability.

Matt Windman, AMNY: It works best at its most irreverent, as exemplified by a celebratory disco number led by Brad Oscar (as Daniel's brother Frank, who works as a hair and makeup designer) and J. Harrison Ghee (as Frank's professional and romantic partner Andre). As the two imaine how to turn Daniel into Mrs. Doubtfire, ensemble members make appearances as both glamorous (Donna Summer, Princess Diana, Cher) and unglamorous (Margaret Thatcher, Eleanor Roosevelt, Julie Child) celebs.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: With "Mrs. Doubtfire," McClure's character, who has swiped the fear of erasure from so many, is more like a spy, hoping to connect with his kids. He doesn't cause much harm, but it's still deception in drag and the dialogue engages in gender in only the most superficial ways, never saying anything about queer identity or marginalization. It's denuded, too scared to seize the opportunity.

Adam Feldman, TimeOut: Have I seen the new Broadway musical Mrs. Doubtfire? At this point, I am fairly confident that I have; ask me in three months, and I'm not sure what I'll tell you. This pleasant and forgettable show at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre is the epitome of what Sondheim (citing his friend Mary Rodgers) called a "Why" musical: "a perfectly respectable show, based on a perfectly respectable source, that has no reason for being." Mrs. Doubtfire hopes to draw on audiences' residual affection for the 1993 Robin Williams film comedy, in which a divorced dad named Daniel disguises himself as a hearty old Scottish nanny so he can spend time with his kids. We've already had musical versions of Tootsie and Mary Poppins; now we have the hybrid we never knew we needed and, as it turns out, we don't.

Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: Strange as it may be to say, getting shut down by the pandemic during previews last year might have been the best thing to happen to the new Broadway musical Mrs. Doubtfire. For one thing, the long hiatus gave some breathing room between this adaptation of the hit 1993 movie starring Robin Williams and Tootsie, the short-lived Broadway musical also revolving around a straight man who dresses in drag. For another, it provided the opportunity for the creators to do some apparently much-needed tinkering, as evidenced by early reports. Finally, the long theatrical dry spell has created a renewed appetite for a feel-good, family-friendly musical comedy. At a late preview performance, you could feel the audience's desire to simply relax and have a good time.

Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post: Why has a movie that was never anything more than a ridiculous star vehicle for the late Robin Williams' comedic talents been dragged onstage almost 30 years later without him? Partly as a star vehicle for Broadway favorite Rob McClure, who now plays Doubtfire a k a Daniel.

Helen Shaw, Vulture: Physically, the show has two core comic tools. The first is what Rob McClure can do with his Doubtfire get-up. He plays a broom like a guitar! He sets fire to his rubber bosom! He breakdances in a fitnesswear parade for Miranda's new line! McClure himself is an antic type, elfin and prone to sudden grace and funny squawks: Imagine Kermit the Frog with incredible vocal control. Putting him inside a bulky padded costume means that we're seeing the two layers spinning in opposite directions: In the show's best dance number - Mrs. Doubtfire learns to cook from a parade of tap-dancing YouTube chefs - McClure hikes up his dress and you see the frenzied duck-on-a-pond paddle that's going on beneath his skirt. The second comic tool is more broadly applicable: farce.

Greg Evans, Deadline: The amount of talent behind the high-spirited, very sporadically fun Mrs. Doubtfire is undeniable, from the creators of the low-key brilliant Something's Rotten!, the legendary director Jerry Zaks, and MVP star Rob McClure, whose quicksilver vocal impressions and comedic shape-shifting more than rival the same attributes that made the movie's Robin Williams a comedy icon. Yet all of that combined know-how can only serve to shine and polish a creaky machine that probably should have been junked and sold for parts well before its arrival on Broadway.

Peter Marks, Washington Post: Audiences that want to indulge Broadway's penchant for recycling hit movie scripts with an insert-song- here sensibility could do a lot worse than "Mrs. Doubtfire"; Broadway has repeatedly shown that it can - do worse, that is. (See "Pretty Woman," "Ghost," "Sister Act," etc.) The pop score by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick evinces some cleverness, especially in a mock-flamenco number, "He Lied to Me," performed in the Spanish restaurant where McClure executes nifty quick changes of Catherine Zuber's smart costumes.

Jesse Oxfeld, NY Stage Review: The specifics of the story are largely but not entirely the same as in the 1993 movie. Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell, who wrote the book, and Kirkpatrick and his brother, Wayne, who wrote the songs, update things to account for changing tolerance for jokes about men wearing dresses and gay people being outrageous makeup artists. The script doesn't rise to the dizzying goofiness of Something Rotten!, but it's still very funny. The songs aren't especially memorable, but they're perfectly enjoyable. And if not all of the plot and character updates quite work, what has ended up on stage is still a very entertaining, very successful, very good time.

David Finkle, NY Stage Review: The tuner (using the term loosely) has two elements going for it: 1) its realistic view of one bittersweet consequence that families may face when divorce intervenes; and 2) the always remarkable Rob McClure pulling out multitudinous stops as the title character.

Kobi Kassal, Theatrely: Where the show truly shines is with the fantastic company that director Jerry Zaks has assembled. Rob McClure is a theatrical force to be reckoned with. Seamlessly transitioning back and forth between Daniel and Doubtfire, McClure is giving a career defining performance that would surely make Robin Williams proud. The lovely Jenn Gambatese as Miranda and their on-stage children Analise Scarpaci as Lydia (terrific), Jake Ryan Flynn as Christopher (enthusiastic), and Avery Sell as Natalie (adorable) make up the Hillard clan.

Charles Isherwood, Broadway News: Yes, it's often quite funny, whether borrowing dialogue wholesale from the movie or freshening it up. And, like its celluloid progenitor, it indulges in moments of sweet sentiment that tiptoe toward the cloying line without crossing it. But it shares a fundamental problem with most similar shows: The movie was chosen for adaptation because it was a hit, and superbly executed, which makes it virtually impossible to equal, let alone surpass on stage.

Jonathan Mandell, NewYorkTheater: An observation Sondheim made about the history of musical theater comes to mind here: "After the Rodgers and Hammerstein revolution, songs became part of the story, as opposed to just entertainments in between comedy scenes." Yes, there is a story in "Mrs. Doubtfire" (the same one as the movie), but Princess Diana is not part of it (her musical is five blocks away.) There are too many ornamental moments like "Make Me A Woman," when "Mrs. Doubtfire" seems to be bringing us back some 90 years to pre-revolutionary Broadway when musical numbers did not advance the plot but served primarily as entertainments between comedy scenes.

David Cote, The Observer: You can't blame producers for trying to mine a historically deep vein. Aristophanes did it; Shakespeare did it; Tom Hanks and the late Peter Scolari did it for affordable rent. But these days a man frantically squeezing into a dress and wig, screeching in falsetto to deceive family and friends seems less comedy gold than grandpa jokes based in cisnormativity. The stage adaptation of Tootsie-first of the current microtrend-ran for eight months, closing in January 2020. At least it had a savvy, witty score by the formidable David Yazbek. Mrs. Doubtfire has... a cooking video interrupted by a pop-up ad for diarrhea medicine. That's shortly before the title nanny accidentally sets her-his-fake boobs on fire while trying to cook for the family. Yes, it was funnier on film.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Theatre Guide: What it lacks in fresh laugh-out-loud moments, honest-to-goodness heart, and sonic earworms you can't wait to hear again, the new Broadway musical Mrs. Doubtfire tries hard to make up for with cranked-up performances and a busy, busy, busy tone. No such luck. For all of the calories burned, it's still low-impact.

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