“Mrs.Doubtfire” at the 5th is Undoubtedly Entertaining


Photo courtesy of Tracy Martin

Dusting off popular movies or shows and converting them into musicals has become its own subgenre over the past couple of decades. Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater has led that charge, and continues to do so with the new show “Mrs. Doubtfire” based on the 1993 film of the same name.

Directed by Tony award-winner Jerry Zaks, it is the 5th Avenue Theater’s 22nd new musical and one of the many productions by the 5th to hit a New York Broadway stage after a Seattle debut.

The main character Daniel Hillard is played by Rob McClure, who gives an outstanding performance. In the first five minutes of the show alone, he is juggling with one hand while singing out “Jersey Boys” references and dancing.

Over the course of the musical, Hillard changes in and out of his nanny costume while sprinting from scene to scene. Challenging the lead to change wardrobe on stage several times while singing and dancing was a daring choice that pays off.

McClure, who was nominated for a Tony for playing Charlie Chaplin in “Chaplin,” is a uniquely gifted performer. He is coordinated, carries boundless energy, and jumps into his characters and voices with seamless mastery. He has certainly earned a spot in the discussion for best actor at this year’s Tony awards. 

It is safe to say that everyone who graces the stage in “Doubtfire” will continue to boast an impressive list of credits in the future. The entire cast is top-notch, and all deserve their own individual praise, especially Tony Nominee Brad Oscar who plays Daniel’s brother; a makeup artist who works in Hollywood. 

Laughter is genuine and constant throughout the production. When Daniel’s brother is crafting his look as Mrs. Doubtfire, there is a dream-like performance by Margaret Thatcher and Eleanor Roosevelt to model the stoic old-lady look. It is a side-splitting affair that only stops to bring viewers back to its emotional core.

There are moments in the musical when the viewer is reminded of the 90’s Robin Williams classic that inspired the production, and becomes acutely aware that this show was crafted to capture a wide, contemporary demographic. 

Doubtfire flosses and dabs. The paper ad that Robin Williams responds to in the film becomes an online post. McClure pulls out an uncanny Trump impression. For revisions that correct real flaws from the source material, the transphobia and casual racism of the 1993 movie are notably absent. The way that the writers and director refurbished “Mrs. Doubtfire” for contemporary audiences will likely go unnoticed by those who have not seen the original, but it is commendable that none of the changes seem forced, and that the play doesn’t go out of it’s own way to flaunt its “wokeness.” 

The alterations are subtle and appropriate for the times. While there are moments that cater to young theatergoers, the show captures the whole room and weaves a genuinely touching narrative.

On top of this, because the original does not have any songs, there were plenty of changes to accompany the new lyrical format—giving the musical a reason to exist beyond imitation and enrichment. 

A problem that plagues other musical adaptations of films like “School of Rock” and “Frozen” is that they essentially function how their cinematic counterparts do, and exist merely as cynical cash-grabs” meant to capture some money in New York for a few years, then hit the national tour circuit. 

It is true that the 5th Ave has high hopes for “Doubtfire,” including a likely national tour, but the adaptation of the source material is far more earnest than the litany of movie-inspired shows that have cropped up in recent years. 

Zaks, the cast and the 5th Avenue Theater have created a quality musical that will likely go on to wow viewers in New York. Those who appreciate theater can rest easy knowing Seattle is originating excellent productions that are tailored to entertain national audiences. 

“Mrs.Doubtfire” doesn’t set its aspirations too high. It is not revolutionary. It is a genuinely entertaining romp with a magnetic lead and a serviceable script. However, with the connective tissue between the ‘emerald city’ and the ‘big apple’ continually strengthening due to the efforts of the 5th, hopes for a groundbreaking musical originating in the northwest become closer to reality every year.