Regional Reviews: Cincinnati
The musical started performances in 2019 just a few days prior to the pandemic shutdown. Like the 1993 film of the same name (which is based on the 1987 novel "Alias Madame Doubtfire" by Anne Fine), the show focuses on newly divorced voice actor Daniel Hilliard. In order to get more than the once-a-week allotted time with his three children, Daniel creates the character of Mrs. Doubtfire, an older Scottish nanny, and is unknowingly hired by his ex-wife to watch the kids while in disguise.
Mrs. Doubtfire is from the creators of Something Rotten!, the surprise Broadway hit from 2015 which many Cincinnati audience members still speak highly of based on its 2017 tour stop here. The book by John O'Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick generally follows the film plot, with some cute modern updates. The story is well-constructed, with both effective comedy and many heartwarming moments. The characters are authentically flawed, yet likeable and relatable. There are a few moments that seem like filler during the production numbers, but it's overall a very funny and touching libretto.
The score by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick isn't quite as strong as their songs for Something Rotten!, but is still well-suited to the story and crafted with care in the modern Broadway style. There's a mix of ballads, anthems, book songs, and large-scale production numbers, and the songs advance the plot effectively, thanks to thoughtful lyrics. "I Want to Be There" is Daniel's want song expressing his desire to stay connected to his kids. "Big Fat No" is an excellent example of advancing the plot through song, and "Just Pretend" is a beautiful father/daughter duet that serves as the 11 o'clock number. The tour offers a new (and better) opening number with "That's Daniel," as compared to the Broadway mounting. Parents may want to know that there is a song for the three children called "What the Hell" which some may find inappropriate for certain younger audience members.
It isn't often that a national tour has the lead performer from the Broadway production, but Cincinnati audiences should be delighted that this tour does. Rob McClure was nominated for Tony Awards for both Chaplin and Mrs. Doubtfire, and has numerous other Broadway credits, including Honeymoon in Vegas and Beetlejuice. To say that McClure is multi-talented would be an understatement, as he is an excellent singer, a gifted physical comedian, a surprisingly nimble dancer, a first-rate actor, and a skilled impersonator, among other abilities. His performance in Mrs. Doubtfire is truly a tour-de-force which is not to be missed.
Maggie Lakis is spirited and fun as Miranda, Daniel's ex-wife (and is Rob McClure's real-life wife). Giselle Gutierrez displays some impressive vocals as their teenage daughter Lydia, and Cody Braverman and Kennedy Pitney show off great timing and stage presence as the younger children. Aaron Kaburick (Frank Hilliard) and Nik Alexander (Andre Mayem) garner lots of laughs as the couple that transform Daniel into the matronly nanny. Leo Roberts (Stuart), Romelda Teron Benjamin (Wanda Sellner), and Jodi Kimura (Janet Lundy) provide noteworthy performances in support, and the entire cast and the hardworking ensemble shine in many of the group numbers.
Jerry Zaks' sleek direction provides the proper balance of hilarity and pathos. Zaks' work on the large production numbers, including "Make Me a Woman", "Easy Peasy", and "The Shape of Things to Come", when combined with Lorin Latarro's apt and active choreography, make them audience favorites. Mark Binns leads a solid 13-piece orchestra consisting of both touring and local musicians.
The scenic design by David Korins is nicely detailed and fun, with effective use of backdrops to aid in scene transitions. The costumes by Catherine Zuber and wigs by David Brian Brown are playful and suitable, and are of course center-stage for the many transformations to and from Daniel becoming Mrs. Doubtfire. The lighting by Philip S. Rosenberg is varied and well-incorporated into the set design to add to the atmosphere. On opening night, the sound mix was somewhat off, with some lyrics difficult to understand, but that will hopefully be adequately adjusted for subsequent performances.
With a truly terrific and monumental lead performance by Rob McClure, a winning score, a very humorous and poignant story, a talented supporting cast, and worthwhile design elements, this tour of Mrs. Doubtfire is one not to be missed.
Mrs. Doubtfire runs through December 17, 2023, at the Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati OH. For tickets and information, please call 513-621-2787 or visit cincinnati.broadway.com. For more information on the tour, visit mrsdoubtfirebroadway.com.