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Review: ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ musical can’t match the original — but it comes close enough

Review: ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ musical can’t match the original — but it comes close enough

There’s no doubt that Robin Williams was one of the greatest comedians of his generation. From “Dead Poets Society” to “Mork & Mindy,” Williams was unforgettable. On stage he was an unstoppable one-man hilarity machine.

So it goes without saying that his performance made “Mrs. Doubtfire” a kitsch classic. The Broadway musical version of that beloved ‘90s flick, while a ton of fun, is nowhere near as memorable. It’s like a recipe you remember loving when your grandmother made it but you can’t really remember all of the ingredients.

There’s still a middle-aged San Francisco dad in a dress pretending to be a no-nonsense Scottish nanny to woo back his ex-wife but there’s only some of the oodles of charm that Williams brought to the party. The good news is that this new iteration of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” directed by the estimable Jerry Zaks, still tickles the funny bones of all ages.

Unlike other musicals recycled from movies, from “Beetlejuice” to “Mean Girls,” “Doubtfire” doesn’t try too hard or dumb things down. This “Doubtfire” makes peace with its essentially escapist nature.

Rob McClure may not be Williams in the title but he sure is lovably kooky. His celebrity impersonations instantly won over the kiddos in the audience, particularly his spot-on Gollum and Darth Vader.

The original movie was a light-hearted punchline machine and the musical maintains that yuk-it-up aesthetic, poking fun at everything from San Francisco real estate to the pop-up ads that plague YouTube tutorials. Lorin Latarro’s spunky choreography for the kitchen extravaganza, a symphony of pots and pans, in “Easy Peasy” is delightful even if the number goes on too long.

Sometimes the show also drags when it tries to get too serious. The production never establishes the emotional connection between Daniel and Maggie (Maggie Lakis) so their divorce proceedings lack a sense of reality. That undercuts both Miranda’s inner journey to being single again and Daniel’s outward romp around town in skirts and heels. The stakes just aren’t high enough.

Likewise, Miranda’s competing love interest, the muscle-bound gym tycoon Stuart (Leo Roberts) is so under-developed as a character, you really do miss the effortless debonair manner of Bond-era Pierce Brosnan.

However these quibbles aside, this musical comedy is still a hoot and a half. The chorus of vacuum-wielding Doubtfires, drubbing Daniel on the head with their purses, steals the show in the “Playing With Fire” number. “Mrs. Doubtfire” is the Mary Poppins of feel-good family fluff for a new generation.

Contact Karen D’Souza at karenpdsouza@yahoo.com.

‘MRS. DOUBTFIRE’

Book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick; presented by BroadwaySF

Through: July 28

Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco

Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes, one intermission

Details: $55-$251 (subject to change); 888-746-1799, www.broadwaysf.com