|Rob McClure is Mrs. Doubtfire (Tracy Martin)|
5th Avenue Theatre
Through January 4, 2020
There is a huge trend in recent years to turn movies into stage musicals. Some end up in the trash heap of historical flops (think Flashdance – the awful musical that toured into the Paramount in 2013). Recently, Tootsie the Musical gained a Broadway run for a time and now the 5th Avenue Theatre is hosting the out-of-town warm-up of Mrs. Doubtfire (the musical) before it enters the competitive Broadway world in February, 2020.
What that means is that right here in our fair city, you can see essentially the Broadway show just before it hits New York! So, the stellar cast, headed by multi-talented Rob McClure, already celebrated for his popular Broadway turn in Something Rotten, is here in Seattle strutting their stuff in what is sure to be very close to what people in Broadway theater will see.
There is no doubt that the cast of this show is top-notch. While adapting a tour-de-force performance by Robin Williams in the film into a stage musical was no sure thing, I can report that there are some very solid belly laughs to be had in this surprisingly charming show.
McClure demonstrates his talents throughout, and dominates the show. He juggles, he sings, he dances, he changes clothes and voices and personas, and all are excellently done!
The story of the movie, that an actor-dad who has never grown up has worn out his wife (who has grown up) and marriage and is in danger of losing access to his kids until he decides to fake being a nanny for them, is all there. Book-writers (script) Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell have stayed very close to the original tale, except that Daniel Hillard is now in commercials instead of cartoons.
Music and lyrics writers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick have crafted some very funny and fun upbeat contemporary music, especially for the commercials. None of those songs, though, are of any particular time-lasting quality – they just sound “contemporary.” Their ballads are less satisfactory.
Also, here in 2019/2020, their treatment of Miranda Hillard, the beleaguered wife, played with all her might by Jenn Gambatese, is really pretty poor. Gambatese tries to help us understand and identify with this wife, but can’t really overcome the wooden treatment of the character they’ve scripted.
Better is the treatment of the three Hillard children, led by young powerhouse Annalise Scarpaci. This young lady is definitely “one to watch” as she moves to Broadway. Jake Ryan Flynn as Chris and Avery Sell as Natalie also do a great job. But why have oldest Lydia be suspicious and want to make trouble only to turn around and apologize before even mouthing off once? This is one of the hard-to-believe moments that can easily be fixed.
Choreography by Lorin Latarro is sharp and terrific, and the pacing brisk as director Jerry Zaks seamlessly knits the scenes together. The handsome set by David Korins moves beautifully to change locations and looks effortless.
A fun innovation away from the movie is a nightmare that Daniel has of the social worker (Charity Angel Dawson) finding out he’s the nanny, with what looks like dozens of Mrs. Doubtfires. Dawson gets her chance to belt her face off, which she does with great power, but why is she all glitzed up? Shouldn’t she still look like the social worker? And what if there were several social worker types running after the Doubtfires?
There is a lot to like about this show, but there is some work to do before they open again on Broadway. Hats off to the 5th Avenue Theatre for continuing to be the out-of-town tryouts for Broadway-bound shows! Here’s to #24 and #25 and #26.
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