(l tor r) Avery Sell, Jake Ryan Flynn, Rob McClure, Jenn Gambatese, and Analise Scarpaci in ‘Mrs. Doubtfire.’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy)
It’s always hard adapting a beloved movie for the theater: you have to first change the medium of the story, from screen to stage, then also remind audiences why they love the film in the first place, and then dazzle them with entertaining songs that don’t feel shoehorned into a story that never sang to begin with. Many such films have struggled to find their success on Broadway. (Beetlejuice, Mean Girls, Bullets Over Broadway among them)
Mrs. Doubtfire now joins that list of adapted movies that many critics wish had just stayed on screen. The New York Post was most direct in its review for the musical, which opened Sunday, December 5 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. “Bringing the movie to Broadway was a huge mistake,” it headline read. Its opening sentence: “Call ‘Nanny 911.’ Mrs. Doubtfire, the new musical that opened Sunday night on Broadway, needs urgent assistance.”
Rob McClure stars as Daniel/Mrs. Doubfire, “who was faced with the unenviable task of attempting to match the peerless Robin Williams,” The Hollywood Reporter wrote. Nonetheless, that outlet commended McClure on being the show’s “supremely hard-working star,” then writing that “veteran stage director Jerry Zaks (Guys and Dolls, Hello Dolly!) fortunately keeps the show’s pace brisk enough to compensate for its ultra-predictable elements. If anything, the production seems to be trying too hard, throwing in more characters, comic situations, and superfluous-feeling production numbers than the story needs.”
The New York Times similarly praised McClure saying, “He’s vivacious on the stage, and his impressions, including a hilarious tongue-wagging Gollum, are precious,” but also wrote, “The new family-friendly musical, adapted from the hit movie, ends up cowering in the original film’s shadow.”
Deadline noted the cultural relevance of this production in this moment: “In an age when hard-fought battles for trans rights and identities are being waged, Mrs. Doubtfire – the character – is no “she.” He’s a he, playing dress up and mansplaining life lessons that feel tacked-on to an enterprise that depends entirely on the supposed comic value of a man in women’s clothing.”
Critics overall reaction to the show? A lot of doubt, little fire.