Review: MRS. DOUBTFIRE at Rochester Broadway Theatre League

What did our critic think of MRS. DOUBTFIRE at Rochester Broadway Theatre League?

By: Feb. 22, 2024
Review: MRS. DOUBTFIRE at Rochester Broadway Theatre League
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HeLLLLllllllLLLooooo! If you’re a 90’s kid like me, that famous greeting from cinema’s most iconic Scottish nanny is permanently imprinted on your memory, especially if, like me, your childhood home had “Mrs. Doubtfire” playing on repeat throughout your formative years (I think we eventually burned out the VHS tape). And while the stage adaptation of this pop culture classic presents some new characters and storylines that will be unfamiliar, it provides just as many heartwarming moments and, more importantly, side-splitting belly laughs.

“Mrs. Doubtfire” is based on the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire, with music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick and a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell. In it, unemployed actor Daniel Hillard (Rob McClure) loses custody of his three children (Giselle Gutierrez, Cody Braverman/Axel Bernard Rimmele, Emerson Mae Chan/Kennedy Pitney) after a messy divorce from his wife, Miranda (Maggie Lakis, who is married to McClure in real life). Desperate to connect with his children, he creates the alter ego of Euphegenia Doubtfire, the picture-perfect Scottish nanny. Unaware of Mrs. Doubtfire’s true identity, Miranda hires Doubtfire to take care of the children. As his alter ego begins to take on a life of her own, Daniel learns more than he bargained for about fathering from Mrs. Doubtfire.

“Mrs. Doubtfire” is truly one of cinema’s most emotional roller coasters, overflowing with comedy but also a lot of intensity and familial strife (for my money, it’s the best film about divorce that’s ever been made). The stage adaptation captures all of these dynamics, delivered with even more poignancy when seen live and not on a TV screen.

The “Mrs. Doubtfire” musical does, however, carry a lot of the same baggage that many of the last decade’s screen-to-stage adaptations carry (and there have been many). None of the music is particularly memorable; there are a lot of silly musical theatre tropes and frills introduced, presumably just to differentiate it from the source material; and characters that were nuanced and subtle on screen have to be ramped-up into overdrive to have the same comedic effect on stage (I’m thinking mostly of Daniel’s brother Frank, played by the iconic Harvey Firestein in the film and Aaron Kaburick in this staged production).

That all said, the overwhelming talent and magnetism of Rob McClure helps paper over the show’s weaknesses, as he delivers one of the more singular acting performances I’ve seen in any musical theatre production in years. In true homage to Robin Williams, McClure’s Mrs. Doubtfire is a nonstop energy tornado, constantly bouncing between goofball dad and straight-laced caretaker, often multiple times in the same scene (the legendary restaurant scene where Hillard’s duplicity is revealed is especially dizzying). It is a truly unbelievable level of physical comedy that I cannot imagine having to deliver eight times per week, and McClure does it without breaking a sweat.

Though imperfect, “Mrs. Doubtfire” provides plenty of fun, endless laughs, and a hall of fame performance from Rob McClure. It’s playing at RBTL’s West Herr Theatre until February 25th, for tickets and more information click here.