Stop the presses; there is a new family musical in town and it is as bold as it is great! Coming into the theater this evening, I did not know what to expect, in that I had no idea how director Jerry Zaks would adapt this musical from the movie of the same title. Robin Williams who starred in the movie is not easily replaceable in this role, however, Rob McClure put that worry to rest in quick order. Like Williams, McClure has all the energy in the world on stage and he commanded this role with ease.
Zaks, a master director had the entire cast in a whirlwind of energy and excellence. I could not help noticing how riveted the audience was watching this performance, not only the acting but the musical numbers as well. Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell’s book was every bit as great as Wayne and Carey Kirkpatrick’s music and lyrics. Together with Philip S. Rosenberg’s lighting, Tony Kurzman’s makeup and prosthetic design as well as wigs and Catherine Zuber’s costumes, Mrs. Doubtfire, is a big time hit.
Also worth noting and it very much added to the uplifting feel to the show was Zane Mark’s dance arrangements. Mark made what could have been a mundane show into a Vegas like production of deft dance coupled with carnival like lighting which changed from glam to romantic and on to industrial force throughout the two hour and fifteen minute production.
In tonight’s production Lydia Hillard, who is the daughter of Miranda and Daniel Hillard was played by Maria Dalanno and Chris Hillard was played by Sam Middleton. Both actors were exceptional in the way of singing and acting. “What the Hell” featured both actors belting out what had a soulful feel halfway through the first act. Dalanno got the party started with “What’s Wrong With This Picture” Other really good songs in act one were “Make Me a Woman” and “The Mr. Jolly Show”, but the best was the last song before the break… “Rockin’ Now” brought the house down to a thunderous applause.
The premise of the plot had a few changes from the movie; computers, cell phones and social media are more of a thing here, so is Mr. Jolly and the formattable Wanda Sellner (Charity Angel Dawson), she is the a matter of fact social worker who is the gate keeper to Daniel seeing his children. Miranda (Jenn Gambatese) has had it with her husband; bringing a stripper to Christopher’s birthday party was the last draw and she wants a divorce. Heartbroken, Daniel rigs Miranda’s phone, so that Daniel can be the children’s nanny. Even though in the movie Harvey Fierstein was great as Daniel’s brother, both Brad Oscar who plays Frank Hillard and his lover, Andre Mayem (J. Harrison Ghee) were both over the top hilarious!
Making a show from a movie is never easy; making a show that replicates an acclaimed movie like Mrs. Doubtfire is risky at best. Yet the book, lyrics and direction all come together nicely in this Mrs. Doubtfire making it a show to watch for Tony honors this year.
McClure, Gambatese both hold there own replacing Field and Williams in their respective roles, as do the three children. The show never takes its foot off the gas. The second act is as strong in plot as it is with its songs… “Big Fat No”, the sultry “Playing With Fire”, “He Lied to Me” and “Just Pretend” are superb! While the show has some risky scenes, it is still fun for a family and I think this show will be enjoyed for seasons too come. What Mrs. Doubtfire does onstage, that it really didn’t delve too deep into the movie was how children feel about divorce and its affects. there were two times in the show that we see the sadness of the father leaving the children and how they lash out. These poignant moments brought reality to the performance and made the show grounded with another dimension too it.
To a musical lover Mrs. Doubtfire has everything that is essential for a stellar musical. The choreography is some of the best this season and so is the set design. Lorin Latarro is marvelous in the way that the performers move to the music. She leaves the audience astounded by her movement of the actors. David Korins scenic design, the different places of the show were well done, keeping the show interesting all the way through.