Hellooo Poppets! Mrs. Doubtfire is Waiting for You at Proctors!
It is always interesting when a role, be it in a movie or play, is so associated with a single performer to see how it will be received when someone else steps into those shoes. Does the new actor make it something totally different, or does he or she attempt to embody the previous performance? That question received at least one answer this week at Proctors, where Mrs. Doubtfire has taken over the theatre. Based on the 1993 movie with the late Robin Williams in the iconic role of Daniel Hillard, the Peter Pan-esque father who is willing to do whatever it takes when his life and marriage spins out, in order to maintain a connection with his three children, thus creating Euphegenia Doubtfire.
Rob McClure, Tony-nominated for his Broadway performance in the same role, has taken the show on the road with the national touring company. McClure has retained much of Williams in the part, including his ability to parade out a catalog of various voices, including Donald Trump, Kermit the Frog, Nathan Lane, Homer Simpson, and even Gollum. McClure manages to make the part his own and does it admirably. He is an actor of enormous talent, and that talent poured forth on the stage. His singing is strong, his dancing superb, and his comic timing perfect.
The play written by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell has borrowed liberally from the screenplay, often recreating scenes that appear to be verbatim. Everything from McClure shoving his face into a cream pie so as not to be recognized to his dancing with a Hover upright vacuum. The playwrights have added some updates to the show, both topical and the addition of Siri, who helps teach Mrs. Doubtfire how to cook. In the big production number, Easy Peasy, suddenly Mrs Doubtfire is surrounded by dancing chefs ready to instruct her on how to spatchcock a chicken, along with Paula Dean competing with butter to create the perfect chicken fricassee. The other outstanding number is It’s About Time, which paired McClure with a looping machine, again honing in on his outstanding sense of timing and performing excellence.
Maggie Lakis, McClure’s real-life spouse, is his stage wife, Miranda, the woman who has reached the end of her rope, married to the frenetic Daniel and ultimately divorcing him, thus setting the play into motion. Unfortunately we do not get to see enough of Lakis as her character is too underdeveloped for the strength of McCLure’s Doubtfire. She has a lovely charm and a strong singing voice. The Hillards’ three children are perfectly portrayed by Giselle Gutierrez, Axel Bernard Rimmele, and Kennedy Pitney. Leo Roberts is an amazing Stu, Miranda’s new boyfriend, complete with the body of an Adonis and a singing voice to match.
Sadly, the show lacks a good score with the enormous talent. The music and lyrics by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick are overall uninspired and, regrettably, completely forgettable. The few musical numbers that work well as you are watching the show are completely gone from your head before you exit the theatre. David Korins’s Scenic Design, Philip S. Rosenberg’s Lighting, and Catherine Zuber’s perfectly executed costumes present a wonderfully visually appealing picture. Lorin Latarro’s choreography is captivating and covers a broad spectrum of the artform that the cast executes flawlessly. All of this is perfectly put together under the direction of Jerry Zaks, Director of the original Broadway production.
Mrs. Doubtfire is an evening of fun, frivolity and heart. For those of an age, it will also stir memories of a comic genius gone before his time. While very obviously it is McClure’s evening on stage, and clearly he has perfected his role, the entire cast manages to match his talent step for step. Mrs. Doubtfire will entertain and enchant the audience as much as she does the children for whom their father created her.
Mrs. Doubtfire at Proctors in Schenectady through October 29.For more information or tickets, www.proctors.org or the box office: 518-346-6204.