B’way Update: Doubtfire Pauses, Proud Closes, Jackman Sidelined
By: David Sheward
January 3, 2022: The omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus continues to wreak havoc on the New York theater scene. In an unprecedented move, Mrs. Doubtfire will halt performances at the Stephen Sondheim Theater for nine weeks from Jan. 10 through March 14 when it is hoped the current surge of COVID cases will have died down. Producer Kevin McCollum states that raising costs for COVID testing, loss of revenue due to cancelled performances and the production’s high weekly running expenses would have forced the show to close permanently if not for this pause. All 115 cast and crew will be laid off with the promise of being rehired when the show re-opens.
Producer Kevin McCollum said in a statement,
“The first few months of a brand new Broadway show are an extraordinarily delicate and important period of time. With the pervasiveness of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Mrs. Doubtfire would have to close permanently if the production didn’t take drastic, pro-active measures.”
“Out of concern for the potential long-term employment of everyone who works on Mrs. Doubtfire, and the extended run of the show, we have decided that following the January 9 performance, the production will close for nine weeks, returning on March 15.”
“Mrs. Doubtfire has been in development for six years. We are doing everything in our power to keep the virus from prematurely ending our run on Broadway. By taking this break we can afford to launch an extended run starting in March.”
“Finally, I would like to express my profound and unending admiration for our extraordinary cast, crew, orchestra, creative team, and entire company. They have risen to every challenge thrown at them over the last two years with a remarkable amount of resilience, good humor, grit, and love for one another. They embody the indomitable spirit of Broadway. I cannot wait for audiences to continue to enjoy what they have created in March!”
Doubtfire, based on the 1993 Robin Williams hit film about a divorced dad who dons dowdy Scottish nanny drag to see his kids, features a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell with music and lyrics by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick. Directed by four-time Tony winner Jerry Zaks, the show played only three previews performances in March 2020 before it was forced to close along with every other Broadway and Off-Broadway show due to the COVID pandemic. It re-opened on Dec. 5, 2021 to mixed reviews. Rob McClure gives an energetic comic performance in the lead role and is a prime candidate for the Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award. Doubtfire has had to cancel 11 times so far because of positive COVID test results since the re-opening. Hopefully, this pause will help rejuvenate the show’s prospects and will not be a forerunner for other shows. McCollum is also the producer of Six, the mock concert show featuring the six wives of Henry VIII as a girl group. He recently told the New York Times that show is doing better since the cast is much smaller than Doubtfire, production costs are relatively low, and advance word of mouth was enthusiastic.
Doubtfire deserves a second chance and hopefully this hiatus will give the show the opportunity to thrive if and when the omicron surge burns out.
In other recent news, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations will close at the Imperial on Jan. 16, joining Waitress, Jagged Little Pill, Thoughts of a Colored Man, Chicken and Biscuits, Dana H, Is This A Room, Trevor and Is There Still Sex in the City? as shows closing in their open runs or earlier than expected in their limited runs.
The Music Man star Hugh Jackman has tested positive for COVID, following a similar result for his co-star Sutton Foster. All performances are cancelled through Jan. 5 and both stars will return on Jan. 6.
The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival and remaining performances of the New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker have been cancelled.