Just five months after a federal judge ruled Tennessee's controversial “drag ban” as unconstitutional, the musical “Mrs. Doubtfire” arrived in Nashville on Tuesday proving yet again the impactful power of drag in mainstream media.
Walking into the lobby of the Tennesse Performing Arts Center, it was clear that there was excitement in the air. The packed auditorium was ablaze with conversation of how the cult classic could possibly be turned into a musical and the red seats of Andrew Jackson Hall quickly filled as the time until 7:30 rapidly fell away.
A hardship producers face with creating screen-to-stage adaptations is that they cannot rely on plot alone to sell the show as the demographic of the audience is those who have seen the source material already. This often results in an eccentric show full of gimmicks, glitz and glamour and “Mrs. Doubtfire” is no exception to that trend.
The ensemble, which undoubtedly was responsible for the most entertaining numbers of the night, performed world-class choreography, by Lorin Latarro, with precision and excellence resulting in a tight performance that left little room for improvement.
“Make Me a Woman” was the most memorable number of the night, serving as the first time we see the transformation of Daniel Hillard into the titular Mrs. Doubtfire. The number was full of partner dancing with figures like Margeret Thatcher, Cher and Donna Summers all dancing and each mask, dress and wig fitting to perfection.
Giselle Gutierrez, Axel Bernard Rimmele and Kennedey Pitney, who played Lydia, Christopher and Natalie respectively, stole the show. Child actors are usually not given opportunities to flex their artistic muscles as much as they may be able to. But in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” they were trusted with the responsibility of playing their character wholeheartedly, which they all did with an amazing degree of success.
However, for a musical that screams the message of respecting children's maturity and their ability to comprehend the world around them concisely, the modernized script often felt like a caricature of who younger generations are. A problem not only found in this, but more so with modernizations in general, the references picked to represent “the now” are quickly outpaced by the ever-changing landscape digital media has provided for the newest generations.
While some jokes felt timely – any joke with a good Taylor Swift reference – the majority felt out of place. When was the last time you saw someone floss unintentionally?
The biggest problem that arose, however, had nothing to do with the performance, rather it was the way that the writing expected the audience to jump between melancholy reflection and disco dance number at a moment's notice. While musical theatre is notorious for its sometimes-out-of-place song and dance numbers due to the nature of the genre, “Mrs. Doubtfire” takes it a step too far and suffers more tonal issues than anything else.
While it could not live up to its source material, the important thing about the musical “Mrs. Doubtfire” was that it was not trying to be a carbon copy of the film, which allowed audiences familiar with the story to still have fun rediscovering their favorite characters.
All in all, “Mrs. Doubtfire” was a fun show that retold a classic, with catchy music and amazing performances and is without a doubt a watch that shouldn’t be missed.
At the TPAC through Sunday, “Mrs. Doubtfire" tickets are available at this link.
This article was written by Zach Watkins