Review of Mrs. Doubtfire
by Katie Beltramo
Based on the 1993 movie, Mrs. Doubtfire tells the story of a family going through a divorce and the dad's desperate attempt to keep close to his kids by impersonating a Scottish nanny. Like me, you might be skeptical, with questions like, "What's Mrs. Doubtfire without Robin Williams?" or "How can that show be a musical?" I'm pleased to report that it makes a fantastic musical thanks to Rob McClure in the title role, a talented cast, and imaginative staging.
I was genuinely surprised by how much i enjoyed this musical. Rob McClure deftly manages to portray Daniel Hillard, who is both charming but convincingly irritating as a husband while also impersonating an older Scottish lady. Watching him make the switch repeatedly is vastly entertaining. There was plenty of slapstick comedy as he tries to maintain his deception, punctuated by plenty of shouting from Aaron Kaburick, who plays Daniel's brother, Frank, who is deeply conflicted about lying. There were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.
Along the way, there is plenty of discussion of the divorce that incited the deception, and this is handled with sensitivity: the wife, Miranda (played by Maggie Lakis), is torn but resolute about her decision; the younger children go through feelings of guilt, fear, anger, and sorrow; and iselle Gutierrez's portrayal of the teen daughter Lydia is particularly moving as she sings her way through justifiable frustratation as she witnesses her dad's immature missteps. I hope it's not a spoiler to say that, like in the movie, there is no reconciliation and reunion. Frankly, the mom can do better, and her new boyfriend (played by Leo Roberts) is likeable, taller, and has a kick-ass baritone. I might drop my husband for him (kidding!) Instead, there is reassurance that the parents' split has nothing to do with their love for their children, that they can all remain a family, even if that family looks different. The message that no matter what a family may look like, it's love that makes a family, comes through loud and clear. And somehow it's even more compelling in a faux Scottish brogue.
My favorite parts of the musical are the big numbers that are inventively conjured throughout the story. When Daniel and his brother and brother-in-law first discuss how to transform him, they name iconic women who instantly materialize and join the dance on stage. When Daniel as Mrs. Doubtfire struggles to cook, he goes down a rabbit hole of internet videos and the kitchen is soon invaded by influencers, celebrity chefs, and advertisers. Whether it's during these scenes or when Daniel juggles identities at a restaurant or goofs off during his day job, there's plenty of song and dance that advances the plot and amps up the comedy. The choreography is tons of fun.
Should you bring your kids?
I appreciated that this show manages to be funny and kind at the same time. There are a few very minor swear words (sucks, G*dammit) and none of the jokes are mean-spirited. Every character involved in the divorce is played with sympathy and compassion, which makes it seem particularly appropriate if this is something that affects your family and you'd like to find a way to talk about it (especially as kids get older, I love theater as a conversation-starter!). Very young children may have some difficulty understanding how the literal people who populate the stage are sometimes representative of ideas or actors on a TV or video, so you can offer an explanation ahead of time (ie. "Just like sometimes there are pictures of a street with houses to help you imagine that the actors are on a real street, in this show you'll sometimes see actors watching a video as well as actors pretending to be the people on the video.") Remember, too, that young people love to listen to the same stories and watch the same movies repeatedly, so you might want to watch the Mrs. Doubtfire movie as a preview to get ready for the musical. With that said, if your child is capable of sitting for two and a half hours, I feel really confident that they'll enjoy the show.
Mrs. Doubtfire is funny, touching, and entertaining. It's a wonderful family show.
This was originally written based on a performance at Proctors in Schenectady. Click here for national tour information.
Mrs. Doubtfire is playing at Proctors, Schenectady, through Sunday, October 29. The show's run time is about 115 minutes (about 2 hours and 35 minutes) with a 15-minute intermission. For schedule and ticket information, call 581-346-6204 or visit www.proctors.org.
The tour will continue all around the country. For dates and locations, click here.
Photos provided by Proctors. Photos by Joan Marcus.
© 2023 Katie Beltramo.
Katie Beltramo, a mom of two, is communication director at Kids Out and About and blogs at Capital District Fun.