‘Make me a woman’ – Mrs. Doubtfire, Shaftsbury Theatre, London. 14.12.2023

Like most 90s children, I grew up on a steady diet of Robin Williams comedy roles, and Mrs. Doubtfire was a strong favourite. I had slightly mixed feelings about it being made into a musical. What songs could they devise to fit this comedy? And who on earth would ever be able to fill those iconic shoes?

I knew I would have to see it to find out for myself. So when they announced it was coming to London, I suggested it for our Christmas West End trip. The very least I was expecting was a good laugh.

That is exactly what we got. It can’t be disputed that it is hugely funny. Most of that humour can be squarely attributed to our leading man (and woman) Gabriel Vick, who plays Daniel Hillard/Mrs.Doubtfire. His impressions and expressions are hysterical; he did Robin Williams proud. The importance of his performance can’t be understated. He is on stage nearly the entire time, which must take a phenomenal amount of energy, but he never once appeared to be flagging.

He is well supported by the rest of the cast. Cameron Blakely as Frank Hillard (Daniel’s brother) and Marcus Collins as his partner Andre Mayem make a great duo, evoking lots of laughs during Daniel’s transformation into Mrs. Doubtfire. Stuart Dunmire, played by Samuel Edwards, is more a character of ridicule in the musical than he is in the film, as seen in his musical number ‘Big Fat No’, which takes place in the gym.

I was slightly anxious that, because the film is from the early 90s, they would stray from the storyline in an attempt to make it more popular with a younger audience. Thankfully, they stuck very closely to the film, with only a few modern tweaks or references, like Mrs. Doubtfire threatening the children with changing the wifi password if they didn’t do their chores.

The music was interesting. I came away with really mixed feelings about the songs. My initial feeling was that they had clearly been written by a child of divorce (I say that as one myself). They made me more emotional than I thought I would be, and I overheard other audience members saying the same during the interval. Perhaps having seen my parents get divorced, I could resonate with some of the pain and confusion experienced by all parties.

There were no real power ballads, which I wouldn’t expect in a comedy musical anyway, but there was still an opportunity for Laura Tebbutt (as Miranda Hillard) and Amy Everett (as understudy for Lydia Hillard) to show off some powerful vocals.

Qn the whole the songs tended towards being emotional over comical. With the exception of ‘Easy Peasy’, which is possibly one of my favourite scenes from the whole musical. This song comes when Mrs. Doubtfire attempts to make dinner for the family for the first time and calls on Siri’s help to do so. The ‘skip ad’ section was very amusing.

However, I wasn’t blown away by any particular song. They weren’t especially catchy – I didn’t come away singing any of them and if I heard one again now I don’t know that I’d recognise where it was from, but that might just be the fact they aren’t well-known or well-established.

The only negative for me, and it can barely be called a negative, is that I found Mrs. Doubtfire’s face mask a tiny bit creepy. It gave her face a puffy effect that reminded me a bit of Spitting Image characters, which I don’t remember being the case in the film.

Overall, it was exactly what I anticipated; a fun night out full of silly comedy. The cast looked like they were having a great time, and that energy spilled into the audience. They stuck closely to their source material which I think will be a relief to many; I don’t think they’d have done it justice if they changed it too much.

I’ve read quite a few negative reviews about it, in my opinion from people who’ve expected too much and thought too hard about it. If you come looking for the next Phantom of the Opera or Tina, you are bound to be disappointed. Come and enjoy it for what it is, a daft comedy and a nostalgic favourite.

There’s no need to take my word for it, dears. Mrs. Doubtfire is now booking until 2025; you can grab your tickets here. If you’re a 90s kid, it’s a nice little trip down memory lane.

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