Theater review

Oh, hello. Who’s that at the door? Why it’s that creaky old Hollywood property all gussied up in a new wig and a fresh set of false teeth, here with designs to take up residence again in our pop-culture-loving hearts.

“Mrs. Doubtfire” the musical is the latest morsel of nostalgia bait to make the trek from silver screen to the Great White Way, where it’s slated to open on April 5. But first, it’s receiving its world premiere at the 5th Avenue Theatre, whose new musical pipeline will send its first show in more than five years to Broadway.

The 1993 film version of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” which features a divorced dad posing as an elderly Scottish nanny so he can spend more time with his kids, was a huge hit. But that was largely thanks to the singular comic presence of Robin Williams, who made a career out of jolting mediocre studio comedies to life.

Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell’s book isn’t interested in reinvention, tracing the same major story beats and duplicating many of the laugh lines — yes, there’s a “run-by fruiting.” The movie’s more overt transphobic jokes seem to have been excised.

Does ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ at The 5th Ave transcend the original’s problematic elements?

Directed by four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks, “Mrs. Doubtfire” arrives at the 5th Ave polished to a blinding gleam. David Korins’ scenic design, featuring sitcom-slick apartments and charming cutouts of the San Francisco skyline and Victorian row houses, is a glossy dopamine trigger. Same goes for the tap-perfect choreography by Lorin Latarro.

These are adequate distractions from a score by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick that doesn’t have much of an identity. Bland pop-rock scene-setters (“That’s Daniel,” “Real Man”) and maudlin ballads (“I Want to Be There,” “As Long as There is Love”) proliferate. Numbers like the disco-inflected “Make Me a Woman” and nightmarish “You Created a Monster” are more memorable, but they’re mostly wallpaper for full-ensemble shenanigans: a stage full of style inspirations (drag Janet Reno and Margaret Thatcher among them) or dozens of Mrs. Doubtfires.


No one can accuse Rob McClure of phoning in his roles as divorced dad Daniel Hillard and alter ego Mrs. Doubtfire. McClure is on stage for nearly all two-and-a-half hours, and he looks like he barely breaks a sweat as he flies through acres of shtick and myriad costume changes — many of them onstage — involving a padded bodysuit and lower-face mask that conjures up images of Hannibal Lecter.

McClure follows the model Williams set out in his portrayal, but it’s a rare talent who can mug and preen and do silly voices and not grow unbearable. Like Williams, McClure can do all that, with a seemingly effortless physicality to boot. A big hurdle to “Mrs. Doubtfire” becoming a regional theater staple will be finding that actor each time.

Elsewhere, Jenn Gambatese shows off a lovely voice as ex-wife Miranda, a role that’s still mostly a thankless nag despite efforts to make her more prominent by giving her the show’s first big song and bulking up her career as a momtrepreneur. Brad Oscar and J. Harrison Ghee have some amusing moments as Daniel’s brother and his husband, though the characters’ increased presence mostly gives them more scenes of dressing and undressing Daniel.

As the kids, Analise Scarpaci has a legit pop-star voice, while Jake Ryan Flynn taps into the show’s frantic comic tenor and Avery Sell cranks up the moppet charm. The trio’s defiant, jumping-on-couches number “What the Hell” is a show standout. Charity Angél Dawson, who stars as a nosy social worker, belts a ceiling-shaking solo in “You Created a Monster” that makes you wish you were watching any other show, as long as she were the lead.

Alas, you’re watching “Mrs. Doubtfire,” an experience akin to the stirring of vaguely fond memories when stumbling across something familiar on TV.


“Mrs. Doubtfire,” book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick. Through Jan. 4; 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave., Seattle; $39-$179; 206-625-1900,