By: Paulanne Simmons
December 13, 2021: Mrs. Doubtfire, the New Musical that opened Dec. 5 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, has something for everyone. There’s rap for the younger set, old-fashioned humor for their parents and even a puppet show for the little kids. It also has direction by Broadway veteran Jerry Zaks and costume design by the formidable Catherine Zuber. But if the score by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick is a bit all over the place, the book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell sticks mostly to the 1993 film (with some attempts to bring the show into the 21st century). And that’s where Mrs Doubtfire gets into trouble.
The film was mostly a vehicle for Robin Williams to show off his considerable talents as Daniel Hillard, the actor/father/husband who has never grown up. Rob McClure surely channels Williams in all his frenetic silliness. But in the end Daniel is so annoying we wonder why his wife, Miranda (Jenn Gambatese), doesn’t only divorce him but also murder him and throw his body off the Golden Gate.
In order to spend more time with his kids after the divorce, Daniel transforms himself into the dowdy and dottie, but mostly outlandish Scottish nanny, Mrs. Doubtfire, with the help of his cosmetician brother, Frank (Brad Oscar), and Frank’s husband, Andre (J. Harrison Ghee), both of whom add much-needed spice to the show. But what follows is just another crossdressing comedy. If you’ve seen Tootsie, you’ve seen them all.
Daniel’s life now becomes very busy indeed. He must set up a new apartment where his kids can visit him (they have no idea he is really Mrs. Doubtfire). He must find a job (which he does, first as a janitor on a kid’s TV show, then as its star, after the producer finds out about his talents). And he must convince the visiting social worker (Charity Angel Dawson) he is a responsible father who should become a custodial parent.
Mrs. Doubtfire does have some high points. The children, played by Analise Scarpaci, Jake Ryan Flynn and Avery Sell, are delightful. Peter Bartlett is perfect as Mr. Jolly, an aging Mr. Rogers-like character. And Jodi Kimura gets lots of laughs as the iron-willed Janet Lundy, the producer with a well-hidden sense of humor. Most of all, the restaurant scene, where Daniel tries to be both Mrs. Doubtfire and himself, with the inevitable disastrous ending, still works.
And the musical has a somewhat happy ending. Daniel gets his rights to his children back, but not his wife. But will the show be a huge hit? I have my doubts.
Stephen Sondheim Theater
124 W. 43rd St., NYC.
Tue—Thu 7pm; Fri 8pm; Sat 2pm & 8pm; Sun 2pm & 7:30pm. $49—$229. Running time: two hours and 35 mins. including intermission.
www.telecharge.com Photography: Joan Marcus