Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Mrs. Doubtfire
National Tour

Also see Patrick's review of Evita

Rob McClure
Photo by Joan Marcus
Take a ludicrous story (a man disguises himself as a Scottish nanny to be with his children after an unfortunate custody ruling), add some bouncy but mostly forgettable songs (by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick) paired with some relatively pedestrian choreography, and you have the recipe for what should be a yawner of a musical. Yet, thanks to an exhaustingly energetic performance by Rob McClure–who created the role on Broadway and is on stage for virtually all of the show's 2.5-hour running time–an excellent supporting cast, a book (by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell) with just enough satire and snark, Mrs. Doubtfire, a musical based on the 1993 film of the same name, whose touring production opened this week at BroadwaySF's Orpheum Theatre, manages to be a fun house of silliness and slapstick, a slamming-doors farce as Daniel/Mrs. Doubtfire struggles to hide his/her identity. The audience lapped it up at the performance I attended, often laughing so hard at the antics on stage that lines were lost in the uproar.

If you are familiar with the movie that starred Robin Williams, most of the basic plot points remain in this adaptation. In the opening scene, Daniel, a loving man-child of a father, loses his job as a voiceover actor. In the film, it was because he morally objected to a cartoon character smoking; here, Daniel is recording a pre-curtain turn-off-your-phones warning and can't stop himself from doing it in a variety of voices, including an hysterical take on Donald Trump that had the audience roaring: "I do the best voices. I win all the voice contests. And if I don't, frankly, they're rigged."

At home, wife Miranda (Maggie Lakis, McClure's real-life spouse) is fed up with Daniel's immaturity and laissez-faire attitude toward their kids–the last straw being throwing a birthday party for their son Christopher (Sam Bird), whose grades are lagging, that includes a visit from an exotic dancer who was supposed to be a singing telegram–and asks him for a divorce. Flash cut to a courtroom where the judge, noting Daniel's unemployment and lack of his own place to live, grants only minimal visitation. Devastated by this news, and learning that Miranda plans to hire a nanny (her clothing design business is taking off), Daniel offers to save her money by watching the kids after school himself. When Miranda refuses, Daniel changes the phone number in the ad she has placed, then uses his talents as a voice actor to impersonate a variety of totally unsuitable candidates for the job–and then one perfect nanny, a Scottish dowager widow whose name he conjures up on the fly.

With the help of his brother Frank (Aaron Kaburick) and the brother's husband Gary (Nik Alexander), a pair of costume and makeup artists for the movies, Daniel is transformed into what his daughter Lydia (Giselle Gutierrez) calls "a cross between Grandma and Shrek," and sings that she doesn't want to "share the house with a creepy old lady in a hideous blouse." Neither, it seems does Christopher or his little sister Natalie (Emerson Mae Chan).

The trouble really begins when Daniel has to work with Wanda (Romelda Teron Benjamin), an agent from the court whose job is to make sure Daniel is meeting his obligations by finding a job and finding a suitable place to live. "Find affordable housing in San Francisco? And I'm the one trying to be funny?" Daniel says, and the audience once again roars with recognition. (For those who don't remember, the film was set in the City, and our skyline and the "Painted Ladies" compose a significant part of this set, designed by David Korins). When Wanda drops by Daniel's dumpy one-bedroom, she finds not Daniel, but Daniel dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire, starting the first of multiple situations where he must quick change between his two personae.

Ultimately, Daniel finds a job as a janitor at a TV station that airs an uber-cheesy kids program, The Mr. Jolly Show, which leads to one of the best scenes in the show. It involves Daniel working with a looping machine to create a rap/sampling song that does a far better job of teaching kids to tell time than the aged Mr. Jolly (David Hibbard, making Mr. Jolly more like Mr. Creepy) had just attempted to. The producer likes what she sees and asks Daniel to consider interviewing to replace Mr. Jolly.

As the show goes on, it only gets more and more ridiculous, but if you are willing to suspend disbelief and just roll with the slapstick, there's a good time to be had at the Orpheum. Even if the show gets a little treacly at the end (as did the movie), when the audience poured out onto Market Street, none of the faults of Mrs. Doubtfire seemed to matter a whit. The comments I overheard seemed to indicate all had a good time. I had to agree. Mrs. Doubtfire isn't high art, but it's pretty darn entertaining.

Mrs. Doubtfire runs through July 28, 2024, at SHN's Orpheum Theatre, 1182 Market Street, San Francisco CA. Performances are Tuesdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, and Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00pm. Tickets range from $65.00-$236.00 For tickets and information, please call the box office at 888-746-1799 or visit For information on the tour, visit