Running at TPAC:

Mrs. Doubtfire

Mrs. Doubtfire is a musical based on the 1993 film, which itself is an adaptation of the 1987 book Madam Doubtfire. The musical adaptation (with Nashville’s Wayne Kirkpatrick a co-author of the score) premiered in Seattle in 2019, then started previews on Broadway just days before COVID-19 shut down all productions. Mrs. Doubtfire resumed Broadway performances in late 2021, then closed in May 2022. Despite these difficulties, it has had a solid run in the UK, and a national tour which started in September of this year. Rob McClure was nominated for a Tony for his role as Mrs. Doubtfire in the original Broadway cast, and is reprising his role for the tour.  

(L to R) Giselle Gutierrez, Cody Braverman, Emerson Mae Chan, Maggie Lakis, and Rob McClure. Photo by Joan Marcus

If you haven’t seen the Mrs. Doubtfire movie, it’s easy to stream online and is worth watching. The story is that Daniel and Miranda get a divorce, and she wins full custody of their three children. Desperate to get a chance to be with them, Daniel enlists the help of his make-up artist brother and develops a disguise: that of the Scottish nanny Mrs. Doubtfire. He manages to get hired by his ex-wife and hilarity ensues. This secret identity provides slapstick costume changes, sincere discussions of family and divorce, and many, many jokes.

The biggest question I had before seeing the November 7th show at TPAC was if Rob McClure was going to do a Robin Williams impression the way recent trailers have made it seem that Wonka might be a feature-film length weak Gene Wilder impression. The answer is a clear no. McClure plays his own character. He carries the show, being funny, good at physical comedy, and fantastic at doing voices, of which he does many. My other favorite cast member was Leo Roberts, who plays Stuart, the man Miranda dates after the divorce. He was the most likable character in the play and played an excellent straight man to McClure’s Doubtfire.

Leo Roberts (Stuart Dunmire) and Rob McClure (Euphegenia Doubtfire)
Photo by Joan Marcus

The musical covers the same story but it does not try to be the 1993 film. It is set in the present, and the only bits that feel dated are a plot point about a live local children’s television program and occasional “flossing;” I double-checked with my high school brother, and he said the dance move is cringy now. Most of the story beats are the same in the musical and the film with a few small exceptions; in the musical Miranda (Maggie Lakis) is now a businesswoman opening a fitness clothing line, and a buff Stuart (her new boyfriend) owns a line of fitness studios. This added the joy of seeing Mrs. Doubtfire join the fashion catwalk as a last-minute replacement plus-size model. There is a new subplot, but it is basically meaningless: Daniel’s brother and his husband mention that they want to adopt, and then later they show up with a baby. Problem mentioned, problem solved.

This adaptation did not fix the (for me, insurmountable) flaw of the film, which is that Miranda, the mother, is portrayed as a sympathetic character, and Daniel as the one who has to learn his mistakes. That would be fine– it’s realistic to show two divorced people both partly in the wrong, partly in the right– except the whole conceit of the story relies on her ignoring his pleas to see his children and ignoring her children’s pleas to see their father, and then hiring a stranger to watch them instead. Such unloving selfishness remains unaddressed, diminishing the impact of the heartfelt moments of the story.

Rob McClure and the Company of Mrs. Doubtfire Photo by Joan Marcus

The music was not terribly memorable, except for the comedy numbers, all of which I enjoyed. My favorite (and I think the crowd’s favorite) was “Easy Peasy,” when Daniel as Mrs. Doubtfire struggles to cook dinner for the first time. He asks Siri to play a recipe video and has to keep looking new things up when told to do things like “spatchcock” a chicken. Advice-giving cooks dance around the stage and are even interrupted by an unskippable ad. Another song, “It’s About Time,” has him playing with puppets and a loop machine on a children’s show set. “He Lied to Me,” is a goofy flamenco song performed at the restaurant finale scene, and makes for a better reveal than the film’s. In the movie, the secret identity is revealed when Stuart’s pepper allergy makes him choke on a piece of shrimp (unclear on how that works) and Daniel’s disguise gets ruined after giving him the Heimlich maneuver. The musical changes the reveal, the disguise getting accidentally torn off while dancing. The music and an effective long pause make the moment more shocking.

This is a well-done musical with many enthusiastic ensemble dance numbers, and for fans of the classic film, it hits all the good moments and adds a few new ones. For people that don’t know the story (my teenage brother who accompanied me to the show has not seen the film), it’s an adaptation that stands on its own two feet.

Shows continue at TPAC until 11/12. For tickets and more information: and for information about the national tour Tour – Mrs. Doubtfire.

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