Mrs Doubtfire to close on Broadway, a month after reopening

Rob McClure (centre) in the lead role of the musical Mrs Doubtfire at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in New York, on Oct 20, 2021. PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Mrs Doubtfire, the Broadway musical adapted from the popular 1993 film, announced that it will close this month after a bumpy run that was interrupted by the pandemic closure in March 2020 and included a return amid the tumultuous current Broadway season.

The show's producer said that the musical's final performance, at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, would be on May 29, just over a month after it reopened after a three-month hiatus.

The news comes days after the show's star, Rob McClure, scored a Tony nomination for his comedic and chameleonic performance in the title role, but the musical failed to garner nominations in any other category.

The closing reflects the challenges of this Broadway season - the first since the pandemic shutdown - when tourism remains down, Covid-19 cases are a constant complication, and a large number of new shows opened around the same time in April, making it difficult for a returning Mrs Doubtfire to break out.

"Even though New York City is getting stronger every day and ticket sales are slowly improving, theatre-going tourists and, especially for our show, family audiences have not returned as soon as we anticipated," Mr Kevin McCollum, the show's producer, said in a statement late on Thursday (May 12).

"Unfortunately, it isn't possible to run the show without those sales, especially when capitalising with Broadway economics on three separate occasions."

Other Broadway productions have also struggled in this new landscape.

A much-praised revival of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf, which had struggled at the box office, announced two weeks ago that it would close on May 22, just a month after opening and three months earlier than planned.

But on Thursday, after receiving seven Tony Award nominations and a social media campaign to sponsor female-identifying people of colour with a pair of gifted tickets, it announced it will now play an additional two weeks, through June 5.

For the week ending on May 8, Mrs Doubtfire grossed US$477,132 (S$666,000), and the theatre was just 69 per cent full.

Still, the show is moving forward with a British engagement, which Mr McCollum said is scheduled to play for a month starting on Sept 2 in Manchester, England; a United States tour is also scheduled to kick off in October 2023.

In development for years and capitalised for US$17 million, the production had gotten through just three preview performances in March 2020 when Broadway shut down.

After a 19-month hiatus, Mrs Doubtfire resumed previews in October and opened on Dec 5, bolstered by a nearly US$10 million grant from the US Small Business Administration.

It opened to tepid reviews - and a pan in The New York Times - just as the Omicron variant began causing Covid-19 cases to spike again.

Then, in a startling example of the financial damage caused by the pandemic shutdown, Mr McCollum decided to close his production for several months, saying he saw no other way to save it.

Rob McClure arrives for the Tony Awards 'Meet The Nominees' Press Reception in New York, on May 12, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

The musical comedy temporarily closed on Jan 10, and had planned to reopen on March 14, but later postponed its reopening until April 14. The closure cost 115 people their jobs for that period.

In the statement on Thursday, Mr McCollum expressed admiration "for our extraordinary Broadway cast, crew, orchestra, creative team and entire company who brought the show to the stage".

And he said: "They have risen to every challenge thrown at them over the last two years with a remarkable amount of resilience, good humour, passion and love for one another."

Mrs Doubtfire, which had a five-week pre-Broadway run at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, is about a struggling, out-of-work actor who loses custody of his children in a divorce.

The father (memorably portrayed in the 1993 film by late actor Robin Williams) is so determined to spend time with his children that he pretends to be a woman to land a job as the housekeeper.

Brothers Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick wrote the music and lyrics for the show, directed by Jerry Zaks; the book is by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell.

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