The new Broadway show, Mrs. Doubtfire, based on the film of the same name, is not the wholly gratifying musical Broadway desires. The production can sparkle and provide many funny moments - most notably the energetic and highly enjoyable performance by Rob McClure in the title role. The show will be enjoyable for families with young children looking for a Broadway outing but, overall, the show is a disappointment.
The plot mostly follows the movie’s arc. Daniel (Rob McClure) is an out-of-work actor who refuses to take his parenting role seriously, preferring to hang out and cavort with his three kids. His wife, Miranda (Jenn Gambatese), finally fed up with his antics, divorces him. In order to share custody, the courts require him to find work. When his wife advertises for a nanny to help manage the home life, Daniel sees an opportunity to stay in touch with his children. He disguises himself as a middle-aged Scottish nanny, aka Mrs. Doubtfire, applies and is hired. During the subterfuge, he begins to learn responsibility and life lessons that, in the end, make him a more conscientious and dutiful dad. Daniel finds a new career, the kids are happy, his former wife has a new beau and everything is smiles and happiness.
The strength of the musical is Rob McLure as Daniel. The actor has never given a bad performance in a Broadway musical. He is a true triple threat – a hard-working actor, solid singer and a marvelous dancer. He’s just been saddled with roles in musicals that have underperformed – Chaplin, Honeymoon in Vegas, Beetlejuice. Here, again, McClure gives it his all - clowning, tap dancing, and providing enough drive and vitality to wear out lesser mortals.
Unfortunately, he is let down by an unfulfilling book and a score that falls flat. These are the two main issues I have with the show - the book by Karey Kilpatrick and John O’Farrell and the score by Wayne and Karey Kilpatrick. In their previous Broadway outing, the uproariously funny musical Something Rotten!, the libretto was clever and amusing and the score was tuneful and hilarious. While the book for Mrs. Doubtfire has flashes of comedic cheek, the songs are…underwhelming. Based on the brother’s song writing history – for the stage and Top 40 charts – I was hoping for a more prominent score.
The supporting cast is admirable, led by Jenn Gambatese and the ever reliable Brad Oscar, who portrays Daniel’s brother Frank. Gambatese is not given a lot to do, but provides a good counter weight to the shenanigans of Rob McClure. Oscar who, incidentally, made such a hysterical splash as Nostradamus in Something Rotten!, once, again, provides a needed spark when needed. J. Harrison Ghee, as Andre Mayem, the life partner of Frank, also deserves mention. Both he and Brad Oscar make a winning pair.
Veteran director Jerry Zaks keeps the action fluid and fast-paced. There’s enough schtick and over-the-top busyness to try to make up for the shortcomings of the book. Zaks gives his star plenty of room to operate, making his performance a crowd-pleasing favorite.
Choreographer Lorin Latarro’s dance routines consistently make sure the musical hums along, sometimes at a frenzied tempo.
Special mention goes to Catherine Zuber (Costume Design) and Tommy Kurzman (Makeup and Prosthetics Design) for the Mrs. Doubtfire disguise, which allows for lightning quick costume changes.
Mrs. Doubtfire, a charming new Broadway musical that doesn’t quite reach its potential.