In the Broadway-bound musical version of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” actor Rob McClure has the unenviable job of following in the footsteps of comedy great Robin Williams, who memorably played the title role in the 1993 film on which the stage show is based.
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How does McClure hope to fill those shoes? “I can’t. I never will,” the actor admitted on the latest episode of Stagecraft, recorded live at New York’s annual convention for theater avids, BroadwayCon 2020.
“I am as big a fan of Robin Williams as anyone,” he continued. “Something that was really important to me — so I had to assume it was important to the fans — is to honor that performance. … I knew that I had to fulfill an expectation that I knew you would have, because I have the same one. And then once I feel like you trust me with it, then I feel like I can take that character in some new places.” He added, “I want to fulfill the expectation in a way that gives you permission to come on a new ride with me.”
McClure appeared on the BroadwayCon panel with his co-stars Jenn Gambatese and Charity Angel Dawson, along with director Jerry Zaks and choreographer Lorin Latarro, all of whom were fresh from the show’s strong-selling run in Seattle and soon to head into rehearsal for the start of Broadway performances on March 9.
The heart of the story — about a family navigating a difficult divorce — remains the same, said the panelists, although there have been some updates to reflect the world as it stands in 2020. For one thing, two major female characters, ex-wife Miranda (Gambatese) and the social worker Mrs. Sellner (Dawson), have had their roles beefed up.
“I’m given a lot more, I think, to work with than Sally Field was given in the film, and I’m very, very grateful for that,” said Gambatese. “[The writers] do a great job of fleshing out Miranda.”
The show’s creators also were careful to consider the story, about a man who dresses up as a British nanny, in the context of a 2020 understanding of gender identity. “We’re not dealing with a transgender character, but that doesn’t mean that if the story is told in an irresponsible way that there can’t be collateral damage to people who could be hurt by it,” McClure said. The creators of the show, he said, reached out to transgender artists and activists, asking for guidance to “tell this story in a responsible way that keeps it about what we want it to be about, which is family, [so] that there’s no jokes at the expense of anyone.”
Also during the panel, the show’s creators and cast talked quick changes, making audiences cry and what’s new for New York — including a new song and a better ending.
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