‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ — Local stars talk real life “magic” of this production

Mrs. Doubtfire
Pictured is Rob McClure as Mrs. Doubtfire.
Joan Marcus

Local Philadelphian Rob McClure has stepped into the role of Mrs. Doubtfire, aka Daniel Hillard, before, and now the actor is reprising his Tony Award nominated dual Broadway character alongside his co-star and real-life wife, Maggie Lakis, who plays Miranda Hillard in this U.S. National Tour. Based on the 1993 film of the same name ‘Mrs. Doubtfire‘ tells the story of the Hillard family, and after a messy divorce, Daniel ends up taking on the incognito role of his kid’s nanny, Euphegenia Doubtfire in an effort to spend more time with them. 

The show will be hitting the stage at the Academy of Music this month, and to dive a little deeper into this musical rendition, McClure and Lakis sat down with Metro to chat about their characters and what sets this production apart.

Mrs. Doubtfire
Maggie Lakis as Miranda Hillard and Rob McClure as Daniel Hillard.Joan Marcus

Being married in real life and then getting to play a couple—albeit a divorced one—on stage must be interesting. How did that come to be? 

Lakis: I auditioned over the summer for Jerry Zaks, the director, and we found out pretty quickly that they wanted us both to do it together. So that made it kind of an easier decision and a no-brainer. 

McClure: For couples, touring life is hard, but we’ve been super lucky. We’ve been together for almost 18 years, which is insane and married for 15, and we’ve been able to work together seven times—which for actor couples is unheard of. This is our third tour, the first was ‘Avenue Q’ and then we did ‘Something Rotten!’ and now ‘Mrs. Doubtfire.’ But now we have our five-year-old little Sadie in tow who’s touring with us. 

Lakis: Touring with a 5-year-old is different, but it’s fun. We now get to show her the country. We’ve seen the restaurants and all the sites, and now we do the zoos and the children’s museums [with her.] 

Rob, since you’ve been in ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ before, now having Maggie in it, how does that feel? And then vice versa for you Maggie, how does it feel to finally be in it and see more of the behind-the-scenes action? 

McClure: It’s really cool. I think there’s a richness to our relationship as Daniel and Miranda that you can’t fake [with] 18 years of history with somebody. There’s an ease between us that I think the audience does pick up on. And we’ve worked together so many times and we’ve seen how the other has worked, so we kind of know the do’s and don’ts of how to work together and be collaborative. 

Lakis:  For me, ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ existed on Broadway during COVID unfortunately, and normally if you know someone in the show you can go backstage to the dressing room…But they were in a testing pool, so we weren’t allowed. We go to Buffalo, New York to do tech rehearsals, and all of a sudden [Rob] comes out in full Mrs. Doubtfire—it was shocking, I’d only seen it as an audience member from the seats. 

There was a removal there, there’s a distance, and so up close, it really was impressive how much of a transformation there is. I’ve just been accepting these glasses of yes, that’s Mrs. Doubtfire, and then all of a sudden Rob as Mrs. Doubtfire comes out and it really is an amazing transformation. 

Mrs. Doubtfire
Joan Marcus

For fans of the movie, what would you tell them to expect from the stage show? 

McClure: I know that a lot of people go, oh no please don’t break this, don’t break the thing that I love, please don’t screw with it and leave it alone. But the reason why they decided to make this adaptation is because our director and the entire writing team, the Kirkpatrick brothers and John O’Farrell, are all dads. They were finding that the lengths to which you would go for your kids was something that sung well, and they started thinking about whether they wanted to do an adaptation. 

In that search, they found a lot of deleted scenes from the movie and a lot of stuff that was left on the cutting room floor for the sake of Robin Williams’s comedy, which is legendary, and we don’t want to miss a minute of it. There’s this beautiful scene [that was cut] between him and his oldest daughter on the courtroom steps right after he’s lost custody. And she says, “You’re an actor. Why couldn’t you and mom just keep pretending for our sake? Why couldn’t you just pretend too?” And as songwriters, you look at that and you go, that’s a song. And as you start to realize what parts of this story sing, to me, that’s what makes a good musical adaptation.

Lakis: Knowing that there will be expectations, they can still deliver on the expectations. You’re going to see Mrs. Doubtfire get hit in the face with a pie and you’re going to see [those kind of] moments. But then you can also give them something unexpected by expanding the roles of the children, what the children’s emotional journey are, and what Miranda, the ex-wife’s emotional journey is. 

What moments from the show are you looking forward for audiences to see unfold on stage? 

Lakis: We’re seeing Miranda’s side of the story [more] in the show, and there’s a song in Act Two where Miranda opens up to Mrs. Doubtfire about what went wrong and how the marriage ended. And it’s just a really touching moment for a person who wouldn’t confess and let down their guard that way if she knew that it was Daniel. But in a way, it’s a gift to him that he gets to really be forced to listen to her and her private thoughts. 

Mrs. Doubtfire
Joan Marcus

McClure: One of the things I love about live theater, theater magic is not magic—it’s real. So when we get to the restaurant scene and Daniel Hillard runs in the restroom, 18 seconds later, he comes back out as Mrs. Doubtfire. [In the movie] they yelled cut and he went to a trailer for five hours. I literally have 18 seconds [to transform] and the audience gets to watch me. 

I do the transformation 31 times a show, and some of the times the audience doesn’t get to see it, it happens off stage. And sometimes I do it on stage in front of them and they’re getting to sweat with me because someone’s coming and my wig isn’t on yet, and they see the clock ticking down. The stakes are higher because it’s real. When it’s tangible and when you see it happening in real time in front of your own eyes, there’s something that raises the stakes to the level of excitement that you feel, and it’s that collective energy that makes theater so much more thrilling than sitting on your couch. 

Catch ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ on stage at the Academy of Music (240 S Broad St.,) Feb. 6 to 18. For more information and tickets, visit ensembleartsphilly.org