Review: ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ follows a sure formula

NEW YORK (AP) – A sure sign that Broadway is rebounding is the arrival of new shows based on blockbuster movies. The latest is “Mrs. Doubtfire” – a sweetly awkward Valentine’s Day for broken families from the mid-1990s that arrives into the busy 2020s.

What opened on Sunday at the Stephen Sondheim Theater is the musical equivalent of a softball right in the middle: a safe and respectfully updated adaptation of a familiar plot with a big, prominent man, a few crazy moments, and pro forma songs that fade from memory as one of the many rapid changes.

The very talented Rob McClure steps into the title role that the late Robin Williams made iconic in film, playing an actor who masquerades as his children’s portly Scottish nanny in order to hang out with them after losing custody during a divorce. “Yeah,” announces one of her children, “that won’t put me in therapy. “

McClure has long earned a role that shows what he’s capable of and that’s it: impressions – Darth Vader, Donald Trump and Yoda, among them – and remarkable agility to dance in a big suit, sing tenderly in a duet, breakdance , catch multiple sticks of butter suspended in a jar and exhibit an almost Ed Sheeran ability to create overlapping vocal loops while manipulating two puppets.

The writers – writers Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, with songs by Kirkpatrick and his brother Wayne – are the same behind the original 2015 musical “Something Rotten!” But this time they had to color the lines of an established plot and are forced to touch every memorable element of the film – the ‘fruiting run-by’, the burnt blouse, the scream of ‘Poppets! ”

“Ms. Doubtful” is actually best when it’s set on non-cinematic nutty-inspired flights, like when a harassed Doubtfire asks computer assistant Siri to help him cook dinner and a sequence of full dance erupts, or when the stress of subterfuge causes a surreal number with 12 Doubtfires on stage at a time.

The writers shaved off some of the film’s most uncomfortable moments – especially Doubtfire fending off the advances of a fellow loving colleague – and gave songs to what literally everyone seems, including the kids, the ex-wife, the new boyfriend, the social worker, the best friends and a trio of singers from Spanish restaurants.

Besides McClure, Analise Scarpaci, another standout performance, plays her eldest daughter with heart and stuns with her voice. “Something rotten!” Veterans Brad Oscar and Peter Bartlett also add a comedic touch but never get out of second gear. The lyrics are a bit too tweeted, with “British” rhyming “Brad Pitt-ish”.

One great thing that needs to be addressed as he walks into his sweet finale is the fact that there’s a guy in the dress – again. “Ms. Doubtfire” follows another comedic adaptation of “Tootsie,” which closed just before the pandemic and has been criticized by some for being transphobic.

Both stories involve cisgender men wearing dresses and becoming better versions of themselves by hiding in plain sight as women. “I saw things from another angle,” our hero told his ex.

With “Mrs. Doubtfire,” McClure’s character, who has swept away the fear of erasure from so many people, looks more like a spy, hoping to hook up with her children. It doesn’t hurt much, but it’s still deception and the dialogue only engages with gender in the most superficial way, never saying anything about queer identity or marginalization. He’s naked, too scared to take the opportunity.

There are worrying signs the creators of “Mrs. Doubtfire” haven’t really learned to see it any other way. They think audiences will find a guy in a faded dress as surprising and funny as he is. he apparently was when “The X-Files” first aired. And the song “Make Me a Woman”, sung by a stereotypical, over-the-top gay couple, makes a horrendous difference between hot women – Dear, Lady Diana, Jackie Onassis and Grace Kelly – and the non-hot ones – Margaret Thatcher, Janet Reno, Julia Child and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Hopefully we’ve moved on. Even the title of the show seems anachronistic: in a world where Playbill performers announce their favorite pronouns, “Mrs”. is the first word in the title of the new musical, an immediate sign that it belongs to another era. “Is it too late for me to change?” »Sings the main character. Yes, sir, it is. Now, please take that dress off.

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Online: https://mrsdoubtfirebroadway.com

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Mark Kennedy is on http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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