Mrs. Doubtfire makes its world premiere in Seattle

a review and conversation with a member of the show’s ensemble


photo courtesy of Julia Henning

Mrs. Doubtfire has a cast of 27 and nearly 20 musical numbers.

Julia Henning, Online Editor

Mrs. Doubtfire, a new musical based on the 1993 film of the same title, made its world premiere in Seattle with three weeks of previews before opening night on December 13. After closing on January 4, the show will move to Broadway and open in March. 

The story of Mrs. Doubtfire is, at its heart, about family and connection. Daniel Hilliard (Rob McClure), a struggling freelance voice actor, loses custody of his three children (Analise Scarpaci, Jake Ryan Flynn, and Avery Sell) after his wife (Jenn Gambatese) files for divorce. Wanting more than one visit a week, he disguises himself as a British nanny, Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, and applies for the position his wife posts online. 

I saw the show a week before its official opening in Seattle, and I was thoroughly impressed by the talent onstage and appreciated the overall message of the show.

Rob McClure gives an incredible performance switching from Hilliard to Doubtfire. After listening to his vocals on the Beetlejuice soundtrack for many months, I was so thrilled to find out he would be coming to Seattle in an original role for Mrs. Doubtfire. In this new role, his vocals were just as impressive, as was his ability to portray so many voices, pulling from the work of Robin Williams from the original movie.

Brad Oscar, playing Daniel’s brother, Frank Hilliard, gave an equally hilarious performance and had superb comedic timing. I would have liked to have seen even more of his character.

Charity Angél Dawson, playing the social worker Wanda Selner, gives a stunningly fresh and new portrayal of the character compared to the original in the movie. Already aware of the power and the beauty of her voice, I would have loved to have seen a few alterations to the songs she sings to present her vocal power in more meaningful pieces of the story.

The most enjoyable element of the cast for me was the kids. They stay at the same talent and energy level as any other adult on that stage. Their ability to show the underlying theme of how kids are affected by divorce is very prominent. They steal the show with their songs and personal scenes with McClure. Analise Scarpaci specifically gives an emotional performance of her teenage character, Lydia Hilliard, in many scenes. Her duet with McClure was the most down to earth piece in the musical and gave a more personal idea of what family means to this teenage character as she develops in the story.

The musical does a good job of taking the ideas from the story and putting them into the context of the 21st century. This includes touching on cross dressing, LGBT rights, and adoption for same-sex couples. Unlike the movie, the story also involves references to Google and smartphones. This is cleverly used in a scene where Mrs. Doubtfire shuts off the wifi so the kids must do their homework. These moments make the story more relatable and bring more humor as well.

There were some scenes that seemed a little over the top or too dramatic, but it made the story more appealing to those who enjoyed the family-friendly aspects and still connected to the idea of what a father would do to be with his kids. Some of the choreography could be more cleaned up, specifically with the tap dance, but with this production team, I have no doubt it will be on point before it hits the great white way in March.

After the show, I was able to get in contact with Summer Mays, an ensemble member and understudy for Lydia Hilliard, from the School of the Arts in Tacoma. She auditioned for open calls at the 5th Avenue Theater and later received the role after four rounds of callbacks. She is one of only three cast members selected from the Seattle area. 

Inkwell: How has the rehearsal process been?

Mays: It’s been so fun. It’s definitely long days and it’s really tiring, but I’m doing what I love all day, so it’s definitely worth it.

Inkwell: What are the differences in your rehearsals as an understudy? 

Mays: I don’t think there is too much of a difference. It’s just like a normal cast rehearsal but it’s so much later because their goal is to get a show up and running with the main cast, and then they get the understudies rehearsed later.

Inkwell: How have people been receiving the show? Is there a difference between crowds on different nights?

Mays: Especially with a new musical, the crowd is helping write the musical, because from our first preview to now, the show is so different. A song has been cut, complete numbers have been changed around, and songs have been rewritten, because of how the audience reacts to them. You never know how it’s going to work with just the cast seeing it, because you need the audience there. You can feel it when the audience is really into a show. Especially with first preview and opening night, audiences were amazing. The audience gives so much energy to the actors too.

Inkwell: Who in the cast has inspired you the most either before or during the rehearsal process?

Mays: Analise Scarpaci, who plays Lydia. She’s twenty so she’s relatively older than me, but she is still a young actor and she left Pace University, which is where I would like to go and one of my top schools, to play a lead role in a Broadway show. 

The principals as well, Rob and Jenn. When you’re not getting to talk to them and you just see them onstage, it’s different. I saw Rob in Beetlejuice three months ago, and little did I know in that moment that I would be sharing the stage with him. But both of them are so nice and the most humble people. 

Inkwell: What are your plans after the January closing of Mrs. Doubtfire?

Mays: I don’t really know what my life is going to be at the moment, because us kids and most of the ensemble actually don’t know if we’ll be continuing with the show. It starts previews on Broadway in March and none of us know if we’ll be going with it or not. The only people that know that are the principals. If that happens though, I’ll obviously be going with this, because I can’t pass that up.

Inkwell: What is the importance of the story of Mrs. Doubtfire to you?

Mays: It’s so real and I love the ending of it. I kind of compare it to Dear Evan Hansen, because it doesn’t really have the ending you would expect. It shows that it’s real life and that families don’t always end up back together, but you can still have a family and not have the exact family you would expect to have. Also, everyone in this cast has told the story so well and kept it similar to the movie but made it so good as a musical.