Stuart King

Review: MRS DOUBTFIRE at Shaftesbury Theatre

Due to other commitments, I was unavailable to attend the June press night for the stage musical version of Robin Williams’ smash hit film from 1993. Rectifying that situation last evening, I can report that the show not only lives up to the expectations of the movie, but adds an extra layer of musical energy and playfulness to the heartwarming and funny story of a dad who finds a new (if bizarre) way to stay connected with his children after divorce.

Mrs Doubtfire the Musical - LondonThe Cast of Mrs Doubtfire at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Photography by Manuel Harlan

With music and lyrics by Wayne and Karen Kirkpatrick it would be easy to denigrate the production for being formulaic, overtly colourful and pre-packaged, but to do so would be to miss the slick professionalism and joy which the show’s retelling brings audience members — many of whom would be too young to know the original film which boasted Sally Field and Pierce Brosnan in its cast.

Here, Gabriel Vick plays troublesome actor Daniel Hillard with the sort of manic freneticism which has so endeared audiences to tragi-comedians on both the silver screen and stage. The well-meaning buffoon who manages to make everyone laugh yet cannot keep his life from falling apart has been a mainstay of comic drama for decades. When his wife Miranda (Laura Tebbutt) decides she has had enough and needs to move on, her decision to file for divorce is the catalyst for Daniel to sort himself out and so it is, almost by accident, that he develops Scottish nanny Euphegenia Doubtfire (whilst under pressure to give a name on the telephone during which he thinks the person on the other end will doubt his story at the same moment he hears a fire truck pass by).

The zany choreographed slapstick numbers particularly in the family kitchen and a later restaurant scene (where Daniel must be himself and his alter-ego at two tables), provide the sort of manic scenarios from which restless sleepers awaken, panting and covered in sweat. It’s supremely daft, foolish fun and gives theatregoers an opportunity to marvel at the timing and stagecraft of a lead who (like Andy Karl in Groundhog Day) earns every dime of his pay check. The remaining cast members imbue as much zing and head-popping energy as 3 years of dance training can give a London Studio Centre/Laine Arts student, and they clearly love every minute of their excess in the spotlight — and who can blame them?

Mrs Doubtfire Tickets