Theatre Review by Howard Miller - December 5, 2021
Mrs. Doubtfire. 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. Music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations by Ethan Popp. Choreography by Lorin Latarro. Scenic design by David Korins. Costume design by Catherine Zuber. Lighting design by Philip S. Rosenberg. Sound design by Brian Ronan. Hair design by David Brian Brown. Makeup and prosthetics design by Tommy Kurzman. Dance arrangements by Zane Mark. Additional orchestrations by Bryan Crook. Music direction by Zachary Dietz. Music coordination by John Miller. Associate director Stephen Edlund. Associate choreographer Michaeljon Slinger.
With a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell and music and lyrics by Kirkpatrick and his brother Wayne, the musicalization of Mrs. Doubtfire is bereft of what had been the movie's emotional core, its charm, and its character-driven humor, fueled by Robin Williams' central performance. What remains is a sketchy adaptation that incorporates a stingy few memorable moments interrupted by songs that do little-to-nothing to develop the plot or reveal anything about the characters.
McClure plays Daniel Hillard, a voiceover actor (he regales us with not-very-good impressions of Trump, Yoda, and Gollum). More to the point, he is an irresponsible, self-absorbed man-child, who his own teenage daughter Lydia (Analise Scarpaci) pointedly says acts like a 12-year-old.
Within the first 10 minutes or so, in a rush of poorly paced exposition, Daniel and his wife Miranda (Jenn Gambatese) argue and then, zip, get a divorce. Miranda is given full, if temporary, custody of the kids, Lydia and her younger siblings Christopher (Jake Ryan Flynn) and Natalie (Avery Sell). In order to gain joint custody rights, something Daniel says he wants with all his heart, he has to show he has an acceptable place to live and can hold down a regular job. Just to keep him honest, the divorce judge has appointed a liaison officer, Wanda (Charity Angél Dawson), to keep an eye on things.
Meanwhile, Daniel has schemed to create for himself an alter ego, one Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, whom he has connived Miranda into hiring as the children's new nanny. Disguised as Mrs. Doubtfire, Daniel will get to spend time with his kids while their mother is busy with her business of designing a women's sports clothing line. To aid him in this deception, Daniel enlists brother Frank (a way-over-the-top Brad Oscar) and Frank's husband Andre (J. Harrison Ghee), professional stylists who say they can easily turn Daniel into a mashup of Eleanor Roosevelt, Julia Child, Margaret Thatcher, Janet Reno, and a little bit of Oscar Wilde. (In truth, he winds up looking more like Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire, which is probably a good idea.)
Like the list of names thrown out by Frank and Andre (Eleanor Roosevelt, etc.), a lot of what passes for comedy comes out as momentary, out-of-context, and not often funny punch lines. As Wanda, the court liaison, asks Daniel at one point, "Do you consider yourself humorous?" That's a question I silently asked throughout the evening.
There is one member of the cast who does manage to find some life in this shallow-as-a-puddle musical with its middle school classroom-clown jokes. That would be Peter Bartlett, who pretty much steals the show for the very brief time he is on as "Mr. Jolly," the long-in-the-tooth, bewildered star of a children's TV show, a character who, it is said, "makes Mr. Rogers look edgy." Bartlett finds a way to turn this role into everything the rest of the forced humor and equally forced warmth of Mrs. Doubtfire lacks. He's actually funny and believable.