Mrs Doubtfire, The Musical is the latest in a series of 80s and 90s comebacks, following recent re-imaginings of Groundhog Day and Back to the Future, both of which had mixed reviews. Following a very short run on Broadway, largely on account of the tricky post-Covid period, it trialled successfully in Manchester last year before finally arriving at the West End.
As someone who grew up with a Robin Williams lookalike for a father (my dad was once asked to bash a gong and shout “Good Morning, Vietnam” in a Chinese restaurant - which I realise doesn’t quite make sense but you get the point), Williams’ work naturally provided the cinematic backdrop to much of my childhood. From Hook to Aladdin to Mrs Doubtfire, his versatility and silly madness was, to me and my sister, the height of brilliance. So, when we headed to watch Mrs Doubtfire, The Musical a few weeks ago, I have to say I was nervous. Who on Earth would be able to fill those oversized clown shoes?
And it’s a fairly enormous task to add songs to a storyline which never required musical numbers and in fact really doesn’t lend itself to them at all. And yet, I was delighted to find that the heavy themes of divorce, broken homes, unemployability and social services were each handled with aplomb. The numbers are fun and big and bizarre which suits the (slightly mad) storyline. The number which accompanies Daniel’s transformation into a woman includes drag cameos from Maggie Thatcher and Donna Summer, and the scorned flamenco dancer was a brilliant addition to the iconic restaurant scene. They also made the smart decision to lift some of film’s more memorable lines exactly, even down to the delivery (“This whole time!…etc.”). Angsty number ‘What the Hell’ carried some of the weight of the children’s feelings about their parents’ separation and finale ‘As Long as There Is Love’ is an undeniably catchy panacea.
Of course, I was watching the storyline from a slightly different perspective as I had done back in 1993. Back then, we thought the Miranda (mum) character a perfect bore for being pissy with Daniel about the big party at the beginning. Now, as a mum myself, I’m firmly in her court. No mother wants to come home from work to find poo all over the house and the remnants of fun had in your absence. Plus, I totally get the Pierce Brosnan thing.
But to come back to my first question: the answer comes in the mega-talented form of Gabriel Vick, who played Mrs D. The character must have been an exhausting one to play on screen with the dual personalities, hefty body suit and slightly schitzo tendencies. But on stage, I have literally no idea how he did it. The impressions he reeled out were incredible; his emotional range completely awesome and his singing voice brilliantly powerful. We needn’t have worried about his suitability as Williams’ successor - he more than covered the bases. He alone is 100% worth the trip out of the borough.
Mrs Doubtfire is on at the Shaftesbury Theatre until 2nd June 2024.