‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ undoubtedly family-friendly fun

Broadway’s Tony-nominated star in touring production of musical playing Chicago stage

Mrs Doubtfire-3: Giselle Gutierrez (Lydia Hillard),Cody Braverman (Christopher Hillard), Emerson Mae Chan (Natalie Hillard), Maggie Lakis (Miranda Hillard), and Rob McClure (Euphegenia Doubtfire) star in "Mrs. Doubtfire" at the James M. Nederlander Theatre in Chicago through March 10. Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus.

A new musical you can take your kids to see and that you’ll enjoy, too? That’s my opinion of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” its national tour making a too-brief stop in Chicago. The last Nederlander Theatre performance of this hilarious and heartwarming show is March 10; march your way to the box office.

If you still need convincing, here’s some background. Over 30 years ago – in 1993, to be precise – the late comedian/actor Robin Williams had a hit movie, “Mrs. Doubtfire,” about an out-of-work actor who pretends to be a Scottish nanny so he can spend more time with his three children after his ex-wife is awarded custody of the kids. It didn’t win a lot of awards (just one Oscar: Best Makeup), but it was enjoyable and memorable. A few years ago, a Broadway musical debuted based on the film, with stage star Rob McClure nominated for a Best Actor Tony Award. Typically, a Broadway star doesn’t also tour with the show, but McClure is in this production, and it’s a tour-de-force performance that begins even before the curtain goes up, as it’s his voice – or, rather, his voices (imitating Nathan Lane, Darth Vader [“I like to keep the theater on the darker side”] – turning a normally straightforward pre-show announcement into the first audience laughs of the night.

McClure plays Daniel Hillard, a voiceover artist in San Francisco with a wife, two daughters and a son. Daniel finds it hard to keep a job because his nonstop joking and desire to always have fun continually get in the way. As his clothing designer wife Miranda – played by McClure’s real wife, Maggie Lakis – puts it, “He has three kids – I have four.” When a birthday party thrown for their 12-year-old son Christopher (Cody Braverman at the performance I attended) gets out of hand, it’s the last straw: Miranda files for divorce and is given sole custody, except for once-a-week visitation. That’s not enough for Daniel, who truly loves his children, so – with the help of his makeup genius brother Frank (Aaron Kaburick) and Frank’s husband Andre (Nik Alexander) – Daniel takes on the larger-than-life role of his life as a widowed nanny named Euphegenia Doubtfire, fooling his ex-wife, his children and the court liaison (Romelda Teron Benjamin) assigned to see if Daniel truly is turning his life around in the three months leading up to another custody hearing.

Mrs Doubtfire-7: Nik Alexander (Andre Mayem), Aaron Kaburick (Frank Hillard), Romelda Teron Benjamin (Wanda Sellner), and Rob McClure (Daniel Hillard) star in "Mrs. Doubtfire" at the James M. Nederlander Theatre in Chicago through March 10. Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus.

To say that Daniel’s life is now very complicated is a major understatement. All three of Daniel’s children need guidance, but it may have to come from his new Mrs. Doubtfire persona, not from him. His 15-year-old daughter Lydia (Giselle Gutierrez) is rebellious and hurt, fearing that her mother is replacing her father with this new nanny (“What the Hell,” sung by Gutierrez, Braverman and Emerson Mae Chan as younger sister Natalie, does a great job expressing the feelings of the children of divorce). Mrs. Doubtfire is also supposed to be a good cook, which Daniel isn’t. Miranda is even showing an interest in a new business partner, Stuart Dunmire (Leo Roberts). And the court liaison is demanding evidence of his employment, so Daniel also has to juggle a part-time janitor job at a San Francisco TV station where “Mr. Jolly,” a long-time children’s show host played by David Hibbard, is well past his prime.

Mrs. Doubtfire-8: Rob McClure stars as Daniel Hillard/Euphegenia Doubtfire in the Broadway in Chicago musical "Mrs. Doubtfire," now playing through March 10 at the James M. Nederlander Theatre in the Loop. Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus.

There’s a lot to love about this musical, including:

• McClure’s masterful comedic performance, driven by the sincere love of a father desperate to be an ongoing part of his children’s lives.

• The music and lyrics of the show. Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick’s songs range from big production numbers (such as the disco-style “Make Me a Woman,” in which Frank and Andre try to turn Daniel into their “greatest creation,” a mixture of Eleanor Roosevelt, Julia Child, Margaret Thatcher and others) to compassionate, emotion-sharing songs like Miranda’s ballad, “Let Go,” which realistically talks about how her marriage to Daniel gradually dissolved. Musical styles are so varied in “Mrs. Doubtfire” that there’s even a flamenco singer’s especially appropriate and funny “He Lied to Me” in a restaurant scene late in Act II. I left the theater wanting to order the cast recording of this musical.

• Dream/fantasy sequences that bring to life people from online videos (like the song “Easy Peasy,” with chefs Mrs. Doubtfire is trying to follow and ends up tap dancing with) to the nightmare/song “Playing With Fire,” in which a huge gavel-wielding judge and multiple “Mrs. Doubtfire” characters haunt Daniel.

• The 10-piece orchestra providing excellent support to the performers under the direction of conductor Mark Binns.

• The fact that there are plenty of laughs AND characters you care about.

In summary, if you want to see a fun show that’ll appeal to folks from 8 to 80, you undoubtedly need “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

• Paul Lockwood is a local theater actor, singer, Grace Lutheran Church (Woodstock) and Toastmasters member, columnist and past president of TownSquare Players. He and his wife have lived in Woodstock for over 23 years.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: “Mrs. Doubtfire”

WHERE: James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago

WHEN: Through March 10

INFORMATION: www.broadwayinchicago.com/shows/mrs-doubtfire