Mrs. Doubtfire resumes performances on April 14 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.
By Elazar Abrahams
This may come as a surprise, but Mrs. Doubtfire is one of the best Broadway shows this season. When I saw it back in January, I was dazzled by the stellar production quality and had a blast. The musical, adapted from the famous 1993 Robin Williams comedy of the same name, is an absolute joy, and has something for everyone.
KJ Hippensteel, an understudy, was the main character the night I saw the show. He was fantastic, and I can only imagine what the usual actor Rob McClure might be like. There are big parts, and then are BIG parts. The role of Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Doubtfire requires over 30 quick costume changes, and it takes a remarkable amount of talent to pull that off, let alone sing, dance, and hit the right emotional beats on que. The rest of the cast is killer as well, especially the kids. A story like this one lives or dies by its child actors, and thankfully the trio of youngsters are bursting with talent. It’s the Hillard siblings that are the heart and core of this show. They deserve every standing ovation coming their way.
Where Mrs. Doubtfire is lacking are the songs. With a few exceptions, the soundtrack is forgettable. “What the Hell,” an early first act number sung by the children stands out as a true gem – the kind of song you’ll rush to find on Spotify when the curtain falls. But the rest of the tracks have very basic lyrics and are quite forgettable. Despite the theater this show is housed in, Sondheim this is not. However, the music is still serviceable to the narrative and helps define each character. Additionally, the staging for the song and dance numbers is so extravagant and over the top at certain points that the spectacle is really what the audience is going to care about. And boy is it a spectacle. The second act ditty “Playing with Fire” comes to mind. You’ll need to grab tickets to see for yourself.
There’s a temptation to dismiss Mrs. Doubtfire because on the surface it seems like its made for kids, or even worse, tourists. Of course, the production isn’t going to be as deep as To Kill a Mockingbird, or as brilliant as Wicked and Chicago, but it is amazing nonetheless, and on its own terms. If you’re looking for a fun night out on the town, Mrs. Doubtfire is the way to go.