Review: MRS. DOUBTFIRE National Tour Presented by Broadway In Chicago

The Chicago engagement of the musical based on the 1993 film that starred Robin Williams plays through March 10, 2024

By: Feb. 29, 2024
Review: MRS. DOUBTFIRE National Tour Presented by Broadway In Chicago
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MRS. DOUBTFIRE is escapist musical theater fun with tremendous character actor Rob McClure (reprising the role from Broadway) carrying on Robin Williams’s immense legacy from the 1993 film in the lead role. 

The creative team behind SOMETHING ROTTEN! (composer/lyricists Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, with book by Karey and JOhn O’Farrell) reunited to create this musical. While MRS. DOUBTFIRE never reaches the creative or memorable heights of that entirely original show, I was far more charmed and entertained than I expected to be. While the lyrics and score aren’t memorable, the creative team nails the classic musical theater comedy structure — and punctuates the book and lyrics with some genuinely laugh-out-loud jokes. Do we need another movie musical adaptation based on a film that relies on a man disguising himself as a woman to get what he wants (TOOTSIE debuted here in 2016)? The answer is no, but MRS. DOUBTFIRE honestly provides so much fun and not much harm. It requires immense suspension of disbelief, but then again, so do all musicals. After all, there’s no other art form where the characters spontaneously burst into song to communicate their feelings. 

I think the trick to making a MRS. DOUBTFIRE musical work in 2024 is also to have a lead actor that makes recently divorced Daniel Hillard’s disguise as a fictional Scottish nanny in order to spend time with his children earnest and not creepy. With Rob McClure, director Jerry Zaks and choreographer Lorin Latarro have easily found the right singing-and-dancing leading man for the role. 

I was also particularly struck by the fact that MRS. DOUBTFIRE is one of the few pieces of popular media that shows a man’s heartfelt, earnest desire to be a better, more involved father. That’s reinforced in Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick’s score — Daniel’s big “I Want” song is quite literally called “I Want to Be There.” It’s on the nose lyrically, but McClure makes the sentiment feel sincere. McClure is also a marvelous musical theater comedian and voice actor, pulling off Daniel’s signature trick of character voices with ease. In “Make Me A Woman,” McClure also demonstrates Daniel’s desire to go to great lengths to reunite with his children — it’s the big makeover song in which his stylist brother Frank (Aaron Kaburick) and his husband Andre (Nik Alexander) transform him into Mrs. Doubtfire. The song title’s cringey, but it’s a fun moment of transformation — especially as it’s a showcase for Catherine Zuber’s vibrant costumes and David Brian Brown’s wig and hair design. 

While the songs aren’t especially memorable, MRS. DOUBTFIRE has some other spectacular character moments for McClure. “Easy Peasy,” in which Daniel tries in vain to make a picture-perfect dinner based off TikTok Videos is a fun satirization of the influencer era (even if it’s contradicted later in the act two opener “The Shape of Things To Come,” a cheesy number introducing Daniel’s ex-wife Miranda’s new fitness apparel line, which seems to uphold influencer culture). Perhaps the most stunning stage moment for McClure is “It’s About Time.” In order to provide for his kids, Daniel must take a second (above board) job as a janitor at a television station featuring the MR. JOLLY SHOW, an outdated children’s program. In a sneaky moment alone, Daniel takes to the Mr. Jolly stage and imagines a more engaging and modern version of the show’s educational format — accompanying himself with a looping machine. It’s a tour de force moment for McClure, who seems to genuinely delight in the mile-a-minute antics of the song. 

McClure’s in good company with his fellow ensemble members. Kaburick and Alexander are over-the-top fun and engaging to watch — even if their side-plot about wanting to adopt a child feels tossed in. Kaburick makes particularly delectable work of Frank’s tendency to start talking really LOUDLY when he’s nervous — and Daniel puts Frank in many pickles, indeed. Maggie Lakis (McClure’s real-life spouse) is lovely as Miranda Hillard, even if the character is underdeveloped. It’s immensely easy to understand Miranda’s frustration with Daniel — at the beginning of the show, he’s an incompetent man-child — but the show doesn’t offer much dimension beyond that. Miranda’s one solo song is the earnest ballad “Let Go,” in which she laments the demise of her marriage. Lakis gives the song a beautiful depth-of-feeling, but I wish she had a bigger, beltier number instead. Giselle Gutierrez (currently a sophomore in college!) is a delight as Lydia, the Hillards’ oldest daughter. Gutierrez has a pleasant, pure belt and she toes the line between sassy teenager and heartbroken child. I was also impressed with the energy and charisma of Axel Bernard Rimmele and Kennedy Pitney as Christopher and Natalie Hillard (they alternate with Cody Braverman and Emerson Mae Chan, respectively). 

MRS. DOUBTFIRE isn’t groundbreaking, but it offers plenty of real laughs and spectacle that genuinely — and delightfully — exceeded my expectations. If you’re looking for musical theater fun and a glorious comedic star turn from Rob McClure, say “Hello, Poppet!” to this show.

The Broadway In Chicago engagement of the MRS. DOUBTFIRE national tour runs through March 10, 2024. 

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus




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