Thursday, September 28

Mrs. Doubtfire – Shaftesbury Theatre

If there was a musical equivalent of marmite, Mrs. Doubtfire is exactly that.

Some audience members were crying with laughter, whilst others were shrinking in their seat with sheer discomfort.

Mrs. Doubtfire, originated by Robin Williams, is an old family favourite film, telling the tale of how a divorce leads to immature Daniel Hillard dressing as a woman to deceive his ex-wife in order to see his kids. This is all done under the guise of him doing whatever it takes to see his children, but brushes off the manipulative, inappropriateness of his controlling actions.

From the pre-show announcement, the distasteful tone was set, with a voice-over of Daniel (Gabriel Vick) flitting between impersonations to tell the audience to turn off their phones, with jabs at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. This may have been an attempt to make the show ‘current’, but it wasn’t necessary. The attempts to make the show ‘current’ didn’t end there, with the additions of iPads, Siri/Alexa and other technological advancements, alongside Nigella Lawson’s infamous ‘microwave’ pronunciation…yet old-school kettles were still used to aid the plot, this left audience wondering what era the show is supposed to be in anymore. It’s unclear.

Whilst most discourse online has (rightfully) been about fears of potential transphobia, it has let a lot of other issues slip unnoticed. From throwaway lines like ‘He’s so ADD’ ‘toxic femininity’ ‘Effie, brace yourself’ and a slurry of ageist comments, the humour (if you can call it that) is cringy and childish. Another honourable mention is a ‘drive-by fruiting’ directly mocking ‘drive-by shooting’s.

Daniel Hillard’s character is infuriating. Even with the slight growth from beginning to end, he is still essentially rewarded for deceiving his family for his own personal gain. He’s selfish, entitled and reeks of ‘woe is me’ attitude when he doesn’t get his own way and instead of working hard, he goes off the handles. He hacks his ex’s emails, attempts to ruin her budding relationship and drags his brothers into it – and that’s without including the obvious elephant in the room.

‘Make Me a Woman’ is an awkward song to say the least. Even though Andre (Marcus Collins) is initially hesitant “you mean to deceive your wife? No it’s wrong” he is quickly roped into the affair. The number is dramatic and camp and over the top, they have thrown everything at it to hide how problematic it is.

Considering trans people are not safe in this country as it is, perpetuating the idea what trans women are just men dressing up to trick people just has no place in this day and age.

When picking his ‘look’ all of the older women are portrayed by men, where the younger women are portrayed by young women, it’s littered with issues.

The best part of this show are the moments that have nothing to do with Mrs. Doubtfire or Daniel.

Children Lydia, Christopher and Natalie, performed by Carla Dixon-Hernandez, Max Bispham and Angelica Pearl-Scott for this performance, have one of the musical’s best songs. ‘What The Hell’ is a fun and light song where the children get a chance to shine without being overshadowed. Carla Dixon-Hernandez has a stunning voice and hopefully will go on to do much better musicals than this.

Even without all of the issues, the score overall is just very bland with no correlation between tracks, there is nothing special about the music or the dance numbers. A tap number as chefs whilst giggling over the word ‘spatchcock’ is just strange. It’s clear that all those on stage are talented and are working hard, it’s not their fault that they’re given tricks that don’t work. The ensemble themselves have no relationship with the lead characters, it just feels very disjointed.

They rely on the prosthetic department and the fact that the movie is so well known. If it wasn’t a Robin Williams film that was so adored, this musical would have flopped.

Other than the children, Cameron Blakely and Marcus Collins as Frank Hillard and Andre did have moments to shine, with Cameron’s yelling-when-lying gag lending itself to a few amusing moments.

Despite what the musical shows, Daniel’s actions aren’t okay, and love will not fix everything.

There is some redeeming quality in the final speech of the show, where Mrs. Doubtfire assures the children that split families are all still families, it’s perhaps the most heart-warming part of the entire show.

Despite the three children, Cameron and Marcus all performing stellar performances, it’s just not enough to save this production. There are so many more shows deserving of this space on the west end.

This musical is the embodiment of ‘throw everything at it and hope something sticks’.

Mrs Doubtfire continues at the Shaftsbury Theatre until June 2024,

Reviewer: Ely King

Reviewed: 22nd June 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.