Review: MRS. DOUBTFIRE at Pantages Theatre

The lovable nanny sweeps through Hollywood until June 30.

By: Jun. 16, 2024
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Review: MRS. DOUBTFIRE at Pantages Theatre
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When Mrs. Doubtfire, the film, was released to cinemas in 1993, the Chris Columbus–directed comedy (based on the novel Alias Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine) was a smash, grossing almost $450 million (the second-highest-grossing film of the year) and winning an Academy Award for Best Makeup. It took almost 30 years, but the musical adaptation opened on Broadway in December of 2021 to less-enthusiastic response, closing after only 83 performances. Despite updates to the story (a lot has changed in 30 years), a weak script and unmemorable music leave the show more Doubt than Fire.

Mrs. Doubtfire
Rob McClure as Mrs. Doubtfire

Rob McClure (who originated the role on Broadway, snagging a Tony nom for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for his efforts) plays Daniel, a San Francisco actor and lovable but wildly irresponsible doof, who, after losing his job, also loses his wife, Miranda (Maggie Lakis), and custody of his three children, teenager Lydia (Giselle Gutierrez), tween Christopher (Axel Bernard Rimmele), and 6-year-old Natalie (Charlotte Sydney Harrington). He must find both a place of his own and gainful employment within three months or else lose custody of the kids for good. Desperate to get his children — and Miranda — back, he creates the persona of Euphegenia Doubtfire, an elderly British nanny, so he can spend time with the kids and also make some money.

It’s a great musical-comedy setup, but it never fulfills that potential. Daniel is such a man-child it borders on annoying. You can see why Miranda wants a divorce. McClure, who has enormous shoes to fill following Robin Williams’ indelible performance, is frenetic, playing his character not as over the top but as Beetlejuice posing as an older white woman.

Mrs. Doubtfire
Axel Bernard Rimmele, Giselle Guiterrez,
Rob McClure and Kennedy Alexandra Pitney

There are splashy numbers but they don’t feel organic to the story; some do nothing for the plot and offer no insight into character — they feel like padding or distractions. Like how the scene with Mrs. Doubtfire learning to cook, an iconic sequence from the film, is marred by a big production number that takes away from the core of the moment. There’s a lot happening, but it’s never very funny.

The book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell and direction by four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks render the characters bland (except Daniel, who is simply frenetic). There’s no nuance to them, which is not helped by an unremarkable score by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick. Actor Aaron Kaburick fares best as Frank, Daniel’s hairdresser brother, who shouts every time he lies. Hair and wig designer David Brian Brown and costume designer Catherine Zuber’s creations for Mrs. Doubtfire are on point, nailing the soul of the character, making her seem real yet also larger than life.

The show runs two and a half hours and despite some light language is family friendly. Kids will likely be entertained. The problem is not that it’s bad — it’s certainly serviceable — so much as it’s unmemorable. Something that should never be said about a character as dynamic as Mrs. Doubtfire.

Photos by Joan Marcus

MRS. DOUBTFIRE is performed at the Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard, through June 30. Tickets are available at BroadwayInHollywood.com, 800-982-2787, and at the box office. The show will hit Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts September 24 through October 6.




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