John O’Farrell and brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick’s (Something Rotten!) musical adaptation of Mrs Doubtfire, the beloved 1993 film starring the late Robin Williams, had a short-lived run in New York during Broadway’s difficult post-pandemic comeback. Now, following a tryout period in Manchester last autumn, the production is up and running in London’s West End and the reviews are out! The show’s finale number is the catchy “As Long as There Is Love”, but how much love did the critics have for the stage incarnation of the “hip, old granny”?
Alun Hood, WhatsOnStage, ★★★★
“Given the universal adoration for the late Robin Williams, the producers of this musical version of his 1993 smash hit Mrs Doubtfire were always going to have to find somebody pretty special to take on the stage incarnation of the feisty Scottish housekeeper and Daniel Hillard, the sad but resourceful family man who creates her as a means to see his children following his divorce. The good news is that they absolutely have. Gabriel Vick is more than simply a safe pair of hands though, and equally he’s not just a stage avatar for Williams’s acclaimed screen turn, although he captures the anarchic spirit and slightly deranged bonhomie that were the essence of it…
“Vick has the comedy instincts of a real master, a rangy, powerful singing voice, and an ability to switch between character voices in the blink of an eye that takes the breath away. In the moments when he breaks the fourth wall as Mrs Doubtfire, the audience go crazy with delight. Whatever he’s being paid, it isn’t enough. This is probably the most demanding male central role in a musical comedy since Barnum, and he is giving a star-making performance that should, if there’s any justice, catapult him to the top of every casting director’s list of go-to leading men for the foreseeable future.”
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph, ★★★★
“It’s an unexpected infatuation, I must admit. There are a stupid number of musicals vying for our attention in the West End. And in terms of theatricalised Hollywood hits from the 80s and 90s alone, do we really need to add to Back to the Future and Groundhog Day? Furthermore, why meddle with a title indelibly associated with Robin Williams’s twinkling tour de force – as the devoted but lax family-man Daniel Hillard and quaint but stern Scottish(-ish) nanny Euphegenia Doubtfire, into whom Hillard transmogrifies after being given his marital marching orders?
“Given that an earlier incarnation of the production, with music and lyrics by brothers Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick (the book co-written by John O’Farrell), flopped on Broadway, its sniffy reviews compounded by Covid, a midsummer arrival in London might seem pure madness. But like its zany hero, the evening, directed by Jerry Zaks, works overtime to inveigle its way into your affections.”
Rachel Halliburton, The Times, ★★★★
“Jerry Zaks’s production niftily updates the technological detail: Daniel hacks into his wife’s email account to change the nanny recruitment advert, and when Mrs Doubtfire arrives at the family home one of her superpowers is to block the wi-fi. The scene where Daniel’s gay brother Frank (Cameron Blakely) and his husband transform him into a woman could be contentious, but here becomes a cheeky if slightly creaky survey of femininity ranging from Maggie Thatcher to the disco diva Donna Summer.
“For far more than being about gender, Mrs Doubtfire plays with that enduring dramatic theme of what disguise teaches us about ourselves. Fantastic ensemble work from the children — not least from Carla Dixon-Hernandez as the eldest, Lydia — and indeed from Laura Tebbutt as Daniel’s wife, Miranda, enables us to sense how his experiment allows the family to heal.”
Fiona Mountford, The i, ★★★★
“Zaks sensibly makes a virtue of the costume changes that Vick must undergo; we are rooting for him to get it done in time (and goodness, he does it fast). There’s particular fun when a stern social worker visits Daniel’s flat and he has to switch between his two roles, himself and Mrs D, multiple times in the scene.
“Matilda has been the West End’s go-to family-focused musical for more than a decade now and this show has a decent chance of joining it in the long-running stakes, so long as Vick doesn’t keel over from heat exhaustion with all that running about.”
Alice Saville, Time Out, ★★★★
“The original movie mostly ignored the idea that dressing up as a woman is a pretty queer thing to do: this show embraces it. Makeover number ‘Make Me a Woman’ is a camp joy, any hint of dated gender politics dispelled by Daniel’s gay brother and his husband, who summon the spirits of Cher and Tina Turner in a kind of funky disco seance. But things sizzle even more in the chaotic restaurant scene where Daniel has to switch between his two personas at lightning speed: flamenco number ‘He Lied to Me’ keeps things moving in style as Daniel wrestles with a latex face mask, tartan skirt and ample padding.
“Daniel’s definitely the focus here. But his three kids don’t get forgotten, with angsty Alanis Morissette-esque number ‘What the Hell’ giving vent to their teen and pre-teen frustration at their squabbling parents. There’s no sugarcoating the emotional pain everyone’s in here.”
Tim Bano, Evening Standard, ★★★
“In the great glut of movie-to-musical adaptations currently force-feeding the West End, this is some kind of exact median. It’s not superb, like Groundhog Day, but it’s not Pretty Woman either, thank God. Aimed squarely at young audiences, there are laughs, some great performances, a couple of big notes and a zippy plot, all aided by the technical slickness of Zaks’s direction. Just don’t look too deeply under those layers of latex, because you might not like what you find.”
David Benedict, The Stage, ★★
“Director Jerry Zaks’ strenuous work is relentless. With his foot pressed on the accelerator, you never have a chance to feel anything, other than to applaud similarities to the film. Some details of the sexual politics have been rewritten for the better, but there are wince-making moments, as in ‘Make Me a Woman’, the number in search of Mrs Doubtfire’s styling, where a line of men in defiantly ugly drag as butch or frumpy women is played for unpleasant laughs.”
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