Review: MRS. DOUBTFIRE IS A COMEDIC GEM, WITH A REFLECTIVE LENS at STRAZ CENTER

No doubt about it...you will see yourself in these characters, and you will laugh till your wig flies off...

By: Apr. 05, 2024
Review: MRS. DOUBTFIRE IS A COMEDIC GEM, WITH A REFLECTIVE LENS at STRAZ CENTER
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Mrs. Doubtfire, a new musical based on the 1993 hit family film of the same name, is actually based on the 1987 novel Alias Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine. The stage musical in all its purposes features music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, with a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’ Farrell. The National Tour is currently onstage in the Carol Morsani Hall, at Tampa’s Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

In its first inception, an adaptation of the hit musical/novel was in the works way back in 2015, which seems like a lifetime ago now, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by David Zippel, and featuring a book by Harvey Fierstein (who also played Frank Hillard in the film). Originally stated in the New York Times by producer Kevin McCollum, “...the plot is tailored for Broadway audiences...”

3 years passed, and the musical was put on a “Creative Hiatus.” Citing that changes in creative team, causing the hiatus, and eventual shelving of the adaptation. Until 2018, when McCollum  announced that the adaptation was still aiming for the stage, but with a change in what would become the official creative team, and featuring Jerry Zaks as the Director of the upcoming project.

Jump forward to May 16, 2019, where the musical held a reading featuring Rob McClure, Kate Baldwin, Mario Cantone, and Jake Ryan Flynn.

Featuring Choreography by Lorin Latarro, and under music supervision by Ethan Popp. The cast included Rob McClure (Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Doubtfire), Jenn Gambatese (Miranda Hillard), Brad Oscar (Frank Hillard), Analise Scarpaci (Lydia Hillard), Jake Ryan Flynn (Christopher Hillard), Avery Sell (Natalie Hillard), J. Harrison Ghee (Andre), Mark Evans (Stuart Dunmire), Charity Angel Dawson (Wanda Sellner), and Peter Bartlett (Mr. Jolly). Originally Doreen Montalvo (Janet Lundy), performed with the company in Seattle, and the following three pre-COVID previews, but she suddenly passed in October 2020.

Mrs. Doubtfire, began its Broadway previews March 9, 2020, at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, planning on taking their opening night bows one month later. However, all Broadway Theaters were shuttered March 12,2020, in wake of the Governors response to the novel COVID-19 Pandemic. Subsequently, Mrs. Doubtfire resumed preview performances on October 21,2021, and officially opened on December 5,2021.  The production then went on hiatus from January 10,2022 through April 14th. Following its re-opening one month later, the producers announced it would be closing on May 29, 2022. At the time of closing, Mrs. Doubtfire will have played 43 previews, and 83 regular performances.

The producing team behind Mrs. Doubtfire, announced in April 2023 that the show would embark on a National Tour beginning in the fall of 2023. The tour kicked off in Buffalo, New York on September 29,2023 at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. The tour was announced with a plan to make stops in over thirty cities through July 2024. Beginning stages of casting was announced in July 2023, when Rob McClure was announced to be assuming the role of Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Doubtfire, of whom he portrayed in the Original Broadway Company, of which he received a Tony Nomination. McClure’s real-life spouse Maggie Lakis would assume the role of Miranda Hillard. Full casting was announced in August of 2023. Giselle Gutierrez a native of Plant City, Florida, would be joining the company as Lydia Hillard, Aaron Kaburick (Frank Hillard), Nik Alexander (Andre Mayem), Leo Roberts (Stuart Dunmire), Romelda Teron Benjamin (Wanda Sellner), Cody Sawyer Braverman and Axel Bernard Rimmele (Christopher Hillard), and Emerson Mae Chan and Kennedy Alexandra Pitney (Natalie Hillard).

Featuring 23 musical numbers, Mrs. Doubtfire will have you laughing and rocking in your seats. The fast paced, up-tempo nature of the musical will grab you and pull you in from the very start. Despite the fun up-tempo nature of the show, and the blistering speed at which the events unfold, deep rooted in its plot are life lessons, and an otherwise retrospective lens that many in the audience will find the ability to relate to. The musical is a depiction of the Modern American family at who’s centralized storyline centers around parental divorce, and the effects it takes on the family as a whole. Mrs. Doubtfire is hailed as being the new musical that centers around this idea of “...the things we do to stay together...”

The plot for those who have seen the film is well known, however, if you find yourself unfamiliar with the nature of the show and the centralized journey of its characters, allow a moment to dive into the plot.

Daniel Hillard is a struggling Actor, currently in a position, where the work is anything but available, and is down on his luck. Following a messy divorce, Daniel loses custody of his three children. Taking on the persona of a Scottish Nanny, Euphegenia Doubtfire, Daniel makes any available attempt to stay in his children’s lives. Soon his alter ego teaches him more than he originally planned, especially when it comes to being his most important role of all... a father.

The cast here is put together and fits like a glove. A connecting unit meshed together to tell a cohesive and life affirming story of love, heartache, and what it means to be a family. 

As the title role, Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Doubtfire, Rob McClure is out of this world. Magnetic in every moment, grounded in his plight from start to finish, and one of the most genius comedic turns I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. Impressions that turn on a dime so quick, you might just miss one if you blink. He lives and breathes each moment with kinetic magnetism that shows, he was destined to tell this story.

As his feuding wife Miranda Hillard, Rob McClure’s real life spouse Maggie Lakis is brilliant here. Her vocals sound contemporary and carry the weight of the words in which she sings with the upmost importance and gravitas. Her connection with McClure is wonderful, and her moments with the kids is the perfect Mother/Children dynamic.

Giselle Gutierrez is wonderful as Lydia Hillard, the oldest daughter. She has moments with both parents that will tug at your heart strings. She senses the weight and severity of the situation sooner than the other kids, and you get her sense of reality. Her vocals are outstanding, and she is a wonderful addition to this fine company of performers. A native to the Tampa Bay area, hailing from Plant City, and its wonderful to have her on a home stage.

Kennedy Pitney and Axel Bernard Rimmele are great additions as Natalie and Christopher Hillard respectively. They know something is going on between their mother and father but quite unsure if they truly grasp the severity. Their moments with Mrs. Doubtfire highlight the child-like innocence of their lives, and are great moments.

As Wanda Sellner, Romelda Teron Benjamin is very by the book. She is determined to tie up the loose ends no matter the cost. She has great moments with Daniel and it really shows off her comedic abilities.

Aaron Kaburick does a fine job as Frank Hillard. Almost reminiscent of David Cross. His vocal inflection really shows off his comedic chops, and his moments with Nik Alexander’s Andre Mayem are wonderful to watch. Both have perfect husbandry qualities showing off the best in their relationship. Like an amalgamation of Modern Family and Arrested Development in all of its dysfunction. The two add a wonderful layer to the already incredibly talented company of performers.

David Hibbard’s Mr. Jolly, is like what happens when Mr. Rogers, Mr. Terrific, and the Old Man from Up join forces and have a lovechild. He’s perfectly reminiscent of children’s tv of yesteryear. Adding a great comedic element to the moment.

Alex Ringler is fantastic as Stuart Dunmire, and almost plays into the dumb-jock/pretty boy with absolute perfection. His accent is perfection, and his moments with Daniel are very reminiscent of “I Can Do Anything Better than You...”

Rounding out the fantastic company of performers and performing many roles, are David Hibbard (Judge, Mr. Jolly, Rectisol Doctor), Jodi Kimura (Therapist, Janet Lundy), Alex Branton (Director, Delivery Guy), Jonathan Hoover (Chef Louis, Maitre’D), Sheila Jones , Julie Kavanagh (Chef Amy), Marquez Linder ( Loopy Lenny), Lannie Rubio (Chef Ann, Flamenco Singer), Neil Starkenberg (Flamenco Dancer), Lauryn Withnell, Julia Yameen (Young Actress), and Swing Ian Liberto (Flamenco Dancer). Each add an additional layer to story, and help propel the story forward.

Technically sound, Mrs. Doubtfire is wonderfully rendered. With exceptional Scenic Design by David Korins, the scenic elements move about the stage with ease and precision. Costume Design by Catherine Zuber allows the characters to embrace the roles in which they play, but at the same time embrace their own unique personalities. Lighting Design by Philip S. Rosenberg highlights the scenic elements by Korins, and adds a unique layer to the story. Sound Design by Brian Ronan, and Craig Cassidy are a wonderful addition to the world of the story, and help to highlight unique moments and adding additional elements to the moments in play.  Hair and Wig Design by David Brian Brown exemplify the unique characteristics of each character, and help bring to life the vision of the show. 

If you are looking for the perfect night out of the house, then Mrs. Doubtfire is your ticket. If you are looking for a show to make you laugh until your sides hurt, then look no further. However, most of all, if you’re looking for a moment in time where you just might see yourself in the characters onstage, then this show is for you. No family is perfect, but its how you persevere that makes all the difference. Tickets for Mrs. Doubtfire, can be found by visiting www.strazcenter.org.

PHOTO CREDIT: Joan Marcus




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