Arts

Actor Aaron Kaburick Discusses ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ Now in Hollywood and, Soon, Costa Mesa

(L to R) Nik Alexander (Andre Mayhem), Aaron Kaburick (Frank Hillard), Romelda Teron Benjamin (Wanda Sellner), and Rob McClure (Daniel Hillard) in the national tour of "Mrs. Doubtfire." Photo by Joan Marcus

SoCal residents are in for a memorable treat with the joyous return of everyone’s favorite bespectacled nanny.

Mrs. Doubtfire, who first became a pop-culture icon thanks to Robin Williams’s indelible portrayal in 1993, is back with her lovable Scottish accent to go along with a series of song-and-dance numbers.

Directed by Jerry Zaks, with choreography by Lorin Latarro, the heartwarming and hilarious story of Mrs. Doubtfire can now be enjoyed as a full-fledged musical at the Pantages Theatre through Sunday, June 30th. And among those who might miss the three-week Hollywood engagement, the national-touring production will open its arms for two weeks of hospitality at Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts from Tuesday, Sept. 24th through Sunday, Oct. 6th.

The well-reviewed musical comedy, which debuted in Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in 2019 before moving to Broadway in 2021, is now touring the states for the first time and boasts the Tony-nominated Rob McClure as Daniel Hillard and his euphonous alter-ego, Euphegenia Doubtfire.

(L to R) Giselle Gutierrez (Lydia Hillard), Cody Braverman (Christopher Hillard), Emerson Mae Chan (Natalie Hillard), Maggie Lakis (Miranda Hillard), and Rob McClure (Euphegenia Doubtfire) in the national tour of Mrs. Doubtfire. Photo by Joan Marcus

A series of very unfortunate events befall Daniel, a voice actor: He quits his job, comes home to his wife Miranda (played by Maggie Lakis, who is also the real-life wife of McClure) requesting a divorce and, on top of all that, loses custody of his three children. However, ever the resourceful doting dad, Daniel answers his wife’s classified ad for a housekeeper, pretending to be the most unimpeachably harmless and innocent elderly lady ever seen or heard. Urgently availing himself to the brilliant artistry of his brother Frank, a makeup artist, Daniel believably transforms into the socially attuned and soothing Mrs. Doubtfire, gets hired for the role of nannying his own children on the spot, and fulfills his wish of being in his kids’ lives. There is one problem, though: How long will the charade, albeit conceived in good faith, last? And what will the ramifications be when the cat is finally out of the bag?

To discuss Mrs. Doubtfire sweeping through Southern California, performer Aaron Kaburick, who depicts Frank Hillard in the production, answers questions about the tour, differences with the Broadway show he was also a part of, what he would change about his persona if he had the creative license, and the expectations that Mrs. Doubtfire’s dearest fans can have when seeing the musical.

In Mrs. Doubtfire, you play Frank Hillard, the brother of Daniel Hillard, a.k.a. Mrs. Doubtfire. Given you’ve probably seen the film, which stars Harvey Fierstein in the very same role, how do you make this part your own without unintentionally taking inspiration from Fierstein’s portrayal, or is it close to impossible not to be affected in some way?

Kaburick: Well, I feel quite lucky because our writers have created the musical version of Frank Hillard with a whole new lens. So, while there are nods to Harvey Fierstein, the role in no way resembles Fierstein’s portrayal. Thank goodness! On top of that, this is a musical. So now we get to see the character sing and dance! And, I get a delicious running gag that’s fun for me and the audience!

(Center, L to R) Nik Alexander (Andre Mayhem) and Aaron Kaburick (Frank Hillard) with the company of the national tour of Mrs. Doubtfire. Photo by Joan Marcus

As far as I’m aware, you’re one of a handful of returning cast members from the Broadway run. Because you’re highly familiar with the production, have you found yourself taking on a more hands-on approach from a leadership standpoint with respect to the newer cast additions?

Kaburick: I wouldn’t necessarily say leadership, but I would say ‘Affirmation Guides!’ Ha! There were four of us from the original company who encouraged the new folks. ‘You got this!’ ‘Yes, you’ll be able to breathe while doing it.’ ‘We promise you’ll have a blast!’ Rehearsals for a Broadway show are fast and furious so encouragement is necessary! And we had already been through the ropes so we were more than happy to offer tips and guidance along the way.

How does the tour compare with the Broadway production?

Kaburick: The productions are similar with a few adjustments. First of all, the set is a little scaled down so that it can fit in our five trucks that travel our entire production. Having said that, our incredible set designer David Korins has created a touring set that feels and looks just like the Broadway version.

In terms of the actual show, we have a new opening number (that is actually a little bit of a hybrid of previous versions). We also have a new number in Act II that combines a few songs and moments from the original Broadway production. To me, it feels a little tighter and more streamlined overall. Some small trims and cuts, here and there, to just keep it snappy!

(L to R) Axel Bernard Rimmele (Christopher Hillard), Giselle Gutierrez (Lydia Hillard), Rob McClure (Euphegenia Doubtfire), and Kennedy Pitney (Natalie Hillard) in the national tour of Mrs. Doubtfire. Photo by Joan Marcus

Because of the mostly feel-good and comedic mood of the show, I’m assuming most of the cast is also in a favorable state of mind behind the curtain. Has this produced any fun and/or memorable backstage happenings?

Kaburick: Well honestly, the first thing to pop into my mind isn’t actual backstage moments, but it’s the people who work backstage. We have such a nice, dependable, and hard-working crew that travels with us. They’re so gifted at their jobs and do it all in such a joyful way that it makes it even easier for us to go out on stage and make people laugh!

You are particularly spotlighted in the numbers “Make Me a Woman” and “Rockin’ Now.” If you could sing another song in the production that you don’t sing in, which one would you choose? And, if you had the freedom to give your persona Frank an additional narrative wrinkle, what would that be?

Kaburick: What a delicious question! I would chose to sing ‘He Lied to Me,’ which is the song our Flamenco Singer (played beautifully by Lannie Rubio) sings in the La Rosa restaurant scene. It is fiery and vicious with dots of humor throughout. Plus, she gets a killer dress to wear.

As for an additional narrative wrinkle, well, I was actually thinking recently that I would love to have a moment with Miranda (Daniel’s ex-wife/Frank’s sister-in-law). I feel like they would probably have a great relationship and truly adore each other. Likewise, they would both easily be able to commiserate over Daniel’s problems, but with a little love, and in song.

The cast of the first national touring company of Mrs. Doubtfire. Photo by Joan Marcus

Finally, with Mrs. Doubtfire being so closely tied to the late, great Robin Williams’s legacy, is there a lot of pressure on the cast to hit a homerun night after night, especially since this is the first exposure to the musical for those outside of New York?

Kaburick: Honestly, there’s pressure to hit a homerun every night for every Broadway tour! We represent Broadway’s best of the best across the country. So whether we are in The Lion King, Beetlejuice, or Mrs. Doubtfire, it is our duty and privilege to entertain the crowds across the country to the best of our ability! For many of them, this is their first experience with Broadway!

Now regarding our show, specifically, I have no doubt that the minute the lights go down and the audience starts laughing, they stop thinking about the Mrs. Doubtfire film they once knew, and they enjoy this bright, fresh new version in front of them!

Mrs. Doubtfire will play at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre through Sunday, June 30th; for showtimes and tickets, visit broadwayinhollywood.com. In September, the musical will make its Costa Mesa premiere at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts where it will run from Tuesday, Sept. 24th through Sunday, Oct. 6th; for showtimes and tickets to that engagement, visit scfta.org.

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