Rob McClure's Stunning Performance in MRS. DOUBTFIRE is the Perfect Post-Pandemic Panacea

Nashville's Hometown Heroes Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick's Latest Musical is a Hit On-Tour at TPAC

By: Nov. 09, 2023
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Rob McClure's Stunning Performance in MRS. DOUBTFIRE is the Perfect Post-Pandemic Panacea
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Rob McClure’s masterful turn onstage as the redoubtable title character is reason enough to make sure you see Mrs. Doubtfire, The New Musical Comedy, now onstage at Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Andrew Jackson Hall through Sunday. But odds are you’ll find so much more to love about this musical adaptation – from the “hometown” team that gave us Something Rotten, the endearing paean to musical theater – of the classic film comedy that, truth be told, McClure’s bravura performance will be the icing on the cake (or, more probably, the buttercream sandwiched between two layers of luscious Victoria sponge) of this delightfully theatrical confection.

Mrs. Doubtfire
Rob McClure

Mrs. Doubtfire, The New Musical Comedy features a terrific score by Nashville’s own songwriting brothers Wayne Kirkpatrick (who was on hand for opening night, and who had earlier in the day posted photos of orchestra rehearsals that featured some of Music City’s best players to give fans some personalized insight) and Karey Kirkpatrick, with a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell that updates the screenplay for the 1993 film that starred Robin Williams and Sally Field. The musical began previews on Broadway on March 9, 2020 – with an opening night set for April – only to be upended by the Covid 19 pandemic that delayed its actual opening night to December 5, 2021. Due to the continued sparseness of New York crowds, the musical went on hiatus a month later, reopening on April 14, 2022, before posting a closing notice for May 29 of that year.

Watching Mrs. Doubtfire from a post-pandemic perspective – and finding so much joy in the process – one cannot help but wonder what might have been had Covid not dealt the blow that shut down virtually all live performances worldwide in 2019 and which continues to impact ticket sales today. Thankfully, Nashville audiences, particularly TPAC’s, have responded affirmatively and enthusiastically to reopening (TPAC set season ticket sales records for the 2023-24 season of which Mrs. Doubtfire is one of the most eagerly anticipated offerings) and the lobby on opening night was fairly teeming with excited ticketholders, anxious to see the latest from the brothers Kirkpatrick and to lavish adulation and a collective welcome on the talented company led by Tony Award nominee McClure (who could justifiably be said to have been robbed of the award, judging from his winning Nashville performance).

Mrs. DoubtfireYou may rest assured that McClure’s performance is wondrous, as he offers a master class in acting during the musical’s two-and-a-half hours, delivering a nonstop performance that defines the term “energetic,” while utilizing his total stage presence and startling appeal to work his way into your heart. As he hurtles from one scene to the next, one song to the next, one costume change to the next – Whew! I’m exhausted just writing about it – he gives a bravura performance that few have done before him.

Perhaps more importantly, however, he and director Jerry Zaks resist the temptation to simply do an impersonation of Williams’ iconic Euphegenia Doubtfire. Instead, McClure creates a character who pulls on our heartstrings with a sense of nostalgic familiarity while somehow being new, fresh and uniquely his own. He’s funny – zany, even – and wildly and over-the-top entertaining, but he’s also poignant, almost heartbreaking, at times. As a result, audiences are laughing hysterically one moment, attempting not to weep the next. McClure walks a very fine line in the process, which adds deeper resonance to the story being told.

Mrs. Doubtfire
Maggie Lakis and Rob McClure

The sharply written dialogue by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell provides plenty of uproariously funny moments, the power of which is underscored by the more dramatic elements of their storytelling to pack a bigger emotional wallop in the process. They very adroitly pepper their book with phrases and incidents from the film, of course, but the updated script gives more emotional heft to the musical that helps to set it apart from its source material.

More importantly, the show's theme of what makes a family is particularly resonant in the world in which we live in 2023 and Mrs. Doubtfire posits that love is what defines a family - whether there's one mother and one father, two dads, two moms or whatever configuration that means - and that's a message that needs to be spread throughout the heartland.

The show’s musical score, by the Brothers Kirkpatrick (how much do I love the fact that Wayne’s bio lists credits for tunes he wrote both for Amy Grant  and the HBO fangfest True Blood?) features some great showstopping numbers that fulfill the need for glitz and glamour, humor and pizazz and features the top-drawer choreography of Lorin Latarro: There’s one (“Easy Peasy”) that somehow manages to perfectly capture the experience of watching YouTube cooking videos while letting the production’s ensemble shine. Act Two’s opening number (“The Shape of Things To Come”) offers an athleisure fashion show that showcases garments for women of all sizes, even the Mrs. Doubtfire-shaped ones, that Project Runway designers covet.

And then there is the piece de resistance of Act One (“Make Me A Woman”) that may send Tennessee legislators scurrying from underneath their rocks to try to outlaw it – it’s divinely campy and quite possibly the best drag show ever seen on a TPAC stage!

Mrs. Doubtfire
Nik Alexander, Aaron Kaburick, Romelda Teron
Benjamin and Rob McClure

On the other hand, there are some great ballads as well that delve more deeply into what makes these characters behave the way they do and which reverberate with heart and sincerity, completely engaging the people watching everything happen onstage. Conductor Mark Binns and his 13-person orchestra (which includes some of the very best players for whom Music City is home)perform the score with a stirring blend of professional musicianship, theatrical zeal and hard-to-define artistry.

Zaks’ direction keeps the action moving at a cinematic clip, while the production’s noteworthy design elements provide a knockout visual experience for audiences who’ve grown accustomed to more colorful beats and showbiz razzle-dazzle to keep their interests and attention focused. David Korins’ state of the art scenic design makes transitions between scenes seem effortless, while Philip S. Rosenberg’s exquisite lighting design is nothing less than gorgeous. Catherine Zuber provides some terrific costume design, while David Brian Brown’s hair and wig design are of the same caliber.

Mrs. Doubtfire
Maggie Lakis, Giselle Gutierrez, Axel Bernard
Rimmele and Kennedy Pitney

McClure’s real-life wife Maggie Lakis is cast as his estranged wife Miranda in the musical (no worries, life’s swell at home) and their obvious trust in each other helps to create the onstage chemistry of their two battling characters. The fact that the pair shine brighter together comes as absolutely no surprise to Nashville audiences who adored them in Something Rotten. Lakis’ performance of “Let Go” in the second act is warmly sung.

Giselle Gutierrez, Kennedy Pitney and Axel Bernard Rimmele – cast as the three Hillard offspring – show off their own considerable talents and exceptional stage presence, creating full-fledged characters instead of the usual precocious kids often considered the musical theater standard. They’re all terrific, with Gutierrez especially given her moment in the spotlight to showcase her stunning vocals.

Aaron Kaburick, cast as Frank (Daniel’s brother), is a perfect comedic foil for McClure, and he manages to steal every scene he’s in by shouting every time he utters an untruth (he lies a lot) and Nik Alexander proves his equally adept (as he walks off with many a scene and delivers some killer vocals that will pin your ears back) better half as his husband Andre. Romelda Teron Benjamin is terrific as the no-nonsense court-appointed investigator who you just know can deliver the musical goods (and she does).

Mrs. Doubtfire
Leo Roberts and Rob McClure

West End star and Broadway baritone Leo Roberts, who boasts an absolutely beautiful voice, proves a clever comic actor as Stuart Dunmire, the British financier/hunk who takes a shine to the newly available Miranda and headlines the terrific second act “Big Fat No” that lets him show off his aforementioned pipes (and biceps).

As is to be expected from a tour fresh off Broadway, the company features an outstanding ensemble of triple threat actors who play a plethora of characters to fine effect and give the production a sheen of professionalism.

Mrs. Doubtfire, The New Musical Comedy. Music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick. Book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell. Based on the Twentieth Century Studios Motion Picture. Directed by Jerry Zaks. Choreographed by Lorin Latarro. Music supervision, arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp. Musical direction by Mark Binns. Stage managed by Kelsey Tippins. Presented by Broadway at TPAC 2023-24. At Andrew Jackson Hall, Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Nashville. Through Sunday, November 12. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (with one 15-minute intermission). For details, go to

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus