Saturday, December 25, 2021

Review of "Mrs. Doubtfire"

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.


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Review of "Company"

What better way to celebrate the life and work of Stephen Sondheim than a unrivaled production of his1970 hit Company.  The musical, which opened earlier this month, is a gender bender interpretation.  Male roles are played by women and vice versa.  The show was first staged in London a few years ago and was set to open on Broadway in March 2020 before Broadway shut down.  


My only quibble with Company is the role of Bobbie, played by the multi-talented Katrina Lenk. She was sensational in the drama Indecent and superb in The Band’s Visit, winning the Tony Award for Best Actress in a musical.  However, in Company, while front and center throughout the show, her performance takes a backseat to the outstanding featured performers.  Ms. Lenk is the thread that links the scenes, but she comes across more as a passive, curious observer.


The show opens as Bobbie, still unattached, is “celebrating” her 35th birthday.  Her married friends - no single persons are in sight - are throwing a surprise party for her.  That event is the springboard for a series of non-linear storylines involving Bobbie that chronicles the ups and downs of married life, dating, and divorce.


The music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim is one of his finest.  He received the first of his six Tony Awards for Best score with the show.  They are delivered with confidence and aplomb by the first-rate cast.  Every song is a memorable gem.  They include such classics as the title number, "The Little Things You Do Together," "You Could Drive a Person Crazy, " "Another Hundred People," and "The Ladies Who Lunch."  


George Furth’s book, with its uncompromising lens on the institution of marriage and relationships, was fresh and bold in 1970.  Over 50 years later, it still feels contemporary.  Furth’s work can be meditative, poignant and very funny.  The musical’s structure of unconnected vignettes gives the show an episodic quality that takes a few scenes to get accustomed to.


The top-notch actors and actresses are led by Katrina Lenk who, despite my misgivings with her portrayal, does bring an appropriately jaded, questioning outlook that stands in contrast to the sunny and sometimes somber disposition of her married friends.  Every one of the featured players deliver a highly accomplished performance.  Three of them are notable standouts - Jennifer Simard is hysterical as the seemingly health-conscious Sarah.  Matt Doyle is uproarious as Jamie, the overly anxious and jittery husband-to-be, who gets to sing the demanding tongue twister of a song “Getting Married Today.”  Patti Lupone is outstanding as Joanne, Bobbie’s boozy friend who oozes sarcasm and enmity.  Her rendition of “The Ladies Who Lunch” rivals that of the original Joanne, Elaine Stritch.


Director Marianne Elliott and set designer Bunny Christie utilize sliding sets and doors that open up to materializing rooms to give the production an Alice in Wonderland feel, both suggestively and literally.  It lends the show a surreal-like quality that helps interweave the storyline together.  Elliott, who’s guidance of such dramas as War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, were inventive and lively, self-assuredly shapes each scene to be engaging and dynamic. 


Company is not a musical with big production numbers.  Nevertheless, Choreographer Liam Steel makes judicious use of dance to augment and enhance scenes, providing a creative use of movement in the show.


Company, providing audiences a chance to revel in a Stephen Sondheim classic, performed by a superlative cast.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Review of "Six"


Six is a triumph.  Simple as that.  This musical of female empowerment, in the guise of a concert by the six wives of Henry VIII, is raucous, witty, funny and extravagantly creative.  The show reminds me a lot of the original production of Dreamgirls, another musical of a women’s singing group coming together.  Both of these shows perfectly meld together lighting, sound, choreography, costumes, and sets into one incomparable whole.


The musical is structured as an 80-minute pop concert - think Ariana Grande or Spice Girls - where a sing-off is being held between the women to decide who will be lead singer of the group.  To determine the role, each of the wives sings about how they suffered the most at the hands of Henry VIII.  


The score by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss - delivered by a tightly knit, rollicking female band under the musical direction of Julie Schade - is tuneful, playful, and full of vim and vigor. The individual performances along with the group numbers are powerfully delivered in highly stylized movements. [Note:  Songs from the musical can be played on the nightly 8-10PM EST all-request program of, the 24/7 online Broadway radio station.]


Each of the six actresses in the show the night I attended - Adrianna Hicks, Andrea Macassaet, Mallory Maedke, Brittney Mack, Courntey Mack and Anna Uzele - brought an intensity and enthusiasm to their roles that was exceedingly entertaining and energized the audience.  


Directors Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage, along with choreographer Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, bring a vitality, toughness, and overall pizazz to the production.  The performers are almost constantly in motion, moving about in a strikingly synchronized fashion.


The lighting design by Tim Deiling, sound design by Paul Gatehouse, and set design by Emma Bailey are integral to the success of Six.  Special mention goes to costume designer Gabriella Slade for her outrageous, yet notably effective melding of pop star glamor with period influences.  


Six, the best new musical to hit the Broadway stage this season.