by Julia Polinsky
basic storyline of Mrs.
Doubtfire follows the film: Daniel, the ultimate
lovable-and-funny-but-irresponsible dad (Rob McClure) gets tossed out of his
marriage, his home, and his family. He loves his kids and wants to be in their
lives. He has to get, and hold, a real job and a real apartment – working as a
janitor in a TV station and living in a filthy dump just won’t do it.
re-invents himself as Mrs. Doubtfire, an older Scottish nanny, and, in this
disguise, gets hired by his ex-wife, Miranda (Jenn Gambatese). Being Mrs.
Doubtfire teaches Daniel a lot about human relationships, families, and
parenting. He becomes a better dad and a better man and maybe a better
ex-husband. And everything’s fine, as long as there is love.
Mrs. Doubtfire is the 25th Broadway
production for director Jerry Zaks, who has four Tonys and eight Tony
nominations, among scads of other nominations and awards. In short, he knows
damn well how to direct a really good Broadway musical, so how come this one
seems like he tossed the components up in the air, let them fall, and played
them where they landed? Fortunately, they mostly land well, but there are some
there are ways for McClure to be a crazy-funny-actor dad other than trying to
channel Robin Williams but only managing to be Robin Williams Lite. It isn’t
until he’s Mrs. Doubtfire that McClure gives his own performance, rather than
trying to give Williams’s; once he’s in the fat suit and the frumpy clothes,
the rubber mask and the wig, he’s wonderful, engaging, clever.
McClure. Photo: Joan Marcus
theater-makeup-artist gay couple (Brad Oscar as Daniel’s brother, Frank, and J.
Harrison Ghee as Frank’s husband, Andre), who Daniel enlists to transform him
into an old, frumpy woman, are terribly over-the-top, as if that were the only
way to be gay. Overdone drag/gay is supposed to get laughs in 2021? Yeah, no –
or else, judging by the audience reaction, they actually still do, regardless
of the advances we think we’ve made.
show’s vision of Miranda, the long-suffering ex-wife, is an imitation-vanilla
wife/mother/stick. Whether she’s being all business, launching her “fitness is
for everybody” athletic clothing line, or flirting with a handsome potential
love interest, Miranda comes off as just not present enough.
the plus side, much superb Broadway razzle dazzle catches the eye and delights
the viewer. Lorin Latarro’s choreography and Catherine Zuber’s costume design
enliven the inspired zaniness of “Easy Peasy”, burned rubber boobs and all.
McClure’s wonderful timing and terrific delivery sell the hell out of the
lying-to-everyone-at-the-restaurant scene (“He Lied To Me”), which might
otherwise be squirmy and cringe-worthy. McClure really shines in the utterly
wonderful “About Time” number, in which Daniel beat-boxes with hand puppets
while teaching how to tell time, using all of McClure’s considerable skill and
talent. Most of the rest of the songs are, alas, forgettable, even the closing
anthem, “As Long As There Is Love.”
Photo: Joan Marcus
the end, Mrs. Doubtfire comes
together in a warm and fuzzy way, which is not such a terrible thing for a
Broadway audience in this bizarre time. Razzle dazzle, some fun numbers, and a
big finish in the end. Sometimes, that’s enough, and this is one of those
Stephen Sondheim Theatre,
W. 43rd St., New York.