On Stage: ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ comes to Academy of Music

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Mrs. Doubtfire

The assortment of current theater productions in the area seems to have something for everyone. There are even two shows that will please both theater fans and film buffs at the same time – “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Hello Dolly!” There is also another play that has a film version in its future – “SMALL.”

“Mrs. Doubtfire” is an American comedy-drama film that was one of the most popular films in the 1990s – especially because of the comedic brilliance of Robin Williams.

The movie, which also featured Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Harvey Fierstein, and Robert Prosky, was released in the United States by 20th Century Fox on November 24, 1993. It won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Williams was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.

The film grossed $441.3 million on a $25 million budget, making it the second highest-grossing film of 1993. It placed 67th in the American Film Institute’s “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Laughs” list and 40th on Bravo’s “100 Funniest Movies of All Time” list. The original music score was composed by Howard Shore.

“Mrs. Doubtfire” has remained a fan favorite for more than three decades – because it is a really funny story and because of the comedic acting by Williams.

In 2019, “Mrs. Doubtfire” was brought to the stage. It opened in the Pacific Northwest and then had its Broadway premiere in 2021. The stage musical has also had U.K. runs in London’s West End and in Manchester.

The show closed on Broadway in May 2022 and then embarked on a National Tour in September 2023. The tour brings the rollicking comedy to Philadelphia for a two-week run.

Ensemble Arts Philly and The Shubert Organization are hosting the First National Tour of “Mrs. Doubtfire” at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, ensembleartsphilly.org) from February 6-18 of the 2023-24 Broadway series.

Mrs. Doubtfire is a musical based on the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire, which in turn is based on the 1987 novel Alias Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine, with music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick and a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell. The musical is set in the city of San Francisco, California.

With direction by four-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Zaks, the new musical comedy features a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, as well as music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick, the Tony Award® nominated team behind “Something Rotten!”

“Mrs. Doubtfire” follows a recently divorced actor who disguises as an elderly female housekeeper to be able to interact with his children. The film addresses themes of divorce, separation, and the effect they have on a family.

Out-of-work actor Daniel Hillard will do anything for his kids. After losing custody in a messy divorce, he creates the kindly alter ego of Scottish nanny Euphegenia Doubtfire in a desperate attempt to stay in their lives. As his new character takes on a life of its own, Mrs. Doubtfire teaches Daniel more than he bargained for about how to be a father. This is a hysterical and heartfelt story about holding onto your loved ones against all odds.

Philadelphia local, Rob McClure, is reprising his Tony Award® nominated dual roles of Daniel Hillard and Euphegenia Doubtfire alongside his co-star and real-life wife, Maggie Lakis, who plays Miranda Hillard in the U.S. National Tour.

Another member of the cast with local connections is ensemble member Alex Ringer. Not that many years ago, Ringer was one of the multitude of students studying at the University of the Arts (and dreaming of one day appearing in a show a few blocks north on Broad Street at one of Ensemble Arts Philly’s theater venues.

“I graduated from the University of the Arts in 2005,” said Ringer, during a recent phone interview for a tour stop in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I was a jazz dance major and also had Carol Sklaroff as my ballet teacher.

“I studied mainly three forms of dance there – jazz, ballet and tap. A foundation in dance is a good way into musical theater.”

Ringer travelled a long way to attend school in Philly.

“I grew up in Tempe, Arizona,” said Ringer. “University of the Arts came to a Thespian Conference in Mesa, Arizona. I auditioned in dance and got accepted. I really like Philly. It was a good intro to city without being overwhelmed.”

Ringer returned to Philadelphia a few years ago as a member of the cast of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” in 2013 at the Academy of Music.

Ringer made his Broadway debut in the 2009 revival of “West Side Story.”  Other credits include the first national tour of the 2007 revival of “A Chorus Line,” the 25th Anniversary North American tour of “Cats,” the 50th Anniversary European tour of “West Side Story” and the Drama Desk Nominated Off-Broadway revival of “Pageant: The Musical.”

He has also choreographed the world and off-Broadway premieres of “ICONS” and “A Musical About Star Wars,” as well as the off-Broadway revivals of “The Marvelous Wonderettes” and “Naked Boys Singing.”

Presently, all of Ringer’s attention is focused on “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

“We started the tour in Buffalo with tech and preview at the end of September,” said Ringer.

“I’m an ensemble member – singing and dancing and doing a lot of roles. I’m Miranda’s co-worker then the make-up guy. I’m a backup singer at a TV station – and I’m a chef.

“This is a great family show. It doesn’t go blue and there is not a lot of harsh language.

“It speaks to families – especially the ending speech. It shows that families can still be families after divorce.”

Video link for “Mrs. Doubtfire” – https://youtu.be/jco5i0plzRo.

“Mrs. Doubtfire will run from February 6-18 at the Academy of Music. Ticket prices start at $20.

“Hello Dolly!” is another show that was a huge hit both on screen and on stage.

Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) kicked off its 2024 season a few weeks ago with “Hello Dolly!”, the musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s play, “The Matchmaker.” This comic and romantic story of the exploits of Dolly Gallagher-Levi, a matchmaker and “woman who arranges things,” will run now through February 25.

It seems that everybody is familiar with “Hello Dolly!” in one form or another – especially the Academy Award-winning film and the hit Broadway musical.

It’s hard not to be familiar with the song, “Hello Dolly!”– at least with the tune’s opening lines… “I said hello, Dolly; Well, hello, Dolly; It’s so nice to have you back where you belong.”

The cast at Candlelight features Rebecca Schall as Dolly Gallagher Levi, Johnny Fernandez as Horace Vandergelder, Jared Calhoun as Cornelius Hackl, Neena Boyle as Irene Molloy and Shawn Weaver as Barnaby Tucker.

“Hello Dolly!” tells the story of widow Dolly Gallagher Levi, a strongminded matchmaker who arrives in New York to “help” Horace Vandergelder, a curmudgeonly and very wealthy widowed shop owner, find a new wife — while secretly plotting to marry him herself.

Meanwhile, two of Vandergelder’s comedically enriched employees leave the shop abandoned and head out to the city in an effort to find adventure. Often referred to as “Broadway’s Greatest Musical”, “Hello, Dolly!” features sweeping dance numbers, hilarious missteps, endearing chaos and, of course, love.

Schall gives a spellbinding performance in the title role – exhibiting the vocal chops and acting skills to capture the spirit of Dolly. Weaver, a Lincoln University graduate, and Calhoun sparkle in their roles as Vandergelder’s store employees from Yonkers who experience the Big Apple for the first time.

“Hello Dolly!” became one of the most iconic Broadway shows of the latter half of the 1960s, running for 2,844 performances, and was the longest-running musical in Broadway history for a time.

Over the years, “Hello Dolly!” has featured many of Broadway’s top leading ladies, including Carol Channing, Mary Martin, Barbra Streisand, Pearl Bailey, Tovah Feldshuh, Bette Midler and Betty Buckley.

“If anything, we’re still focused on the stage version rather than the film version,” said Schall, whose television credits include “Boardwalk Empire,” “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “In Case of Emergency,” “Julie and Julia,” and “Petuna.”

“There definitely is a difference between stage and film.”

Audiences love the character Dolly, and Schall offers her take on why.

“Dolly is happy, exuberant and effusive,” said Schall. “She knows what she wants, and she goes for it. She’s a bundle of energy – and a good person.

“I bring a sense of quirkiness to the role. I agree one thousand per cent with her passion for helping others – for helping other people get better.

“One reason audiences love the show is the music. They know all the songs. The music is unbelievable – and the script is very well-written. This show is fun. It’s just a beautiful show.”

“Hello Dolly!” is running now through February 25 at the Candlelight Dinner Theatre.

Tickets, which include dinner, beverage and free parking, are $70.50 for adults and $35 for children (ages 4-12).


“SMALL,” which just opened at People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, www.peopleslight.org), is a one-man show that look at this man’s life from playground to paddock, from playhouse to publishing…to People’s Light.

“SMALL” is written and performed by stage, film, and television star Robert Montano (“Cats” on Broadway, “Barcelona” at People’s Light).

Bullied for his size, a boy from Long Island finds purpose and respect atop a racehorse in this wild autobiographical ride,

As the young jockey starts to literally outgrow his childhood dream, he resorts to more and more extreme measures to remain “small” before ultimately finding freedom in a new path. From Belmont Park to Broadway stages, Montano’s vivid and highly entertaining coming-of-age story explores the complex realities of pursuing a dream at all costs.

Montano tells his coming-of-age story about Bobby, a teen from Long Island who enjoys musical theatre but becomes fascinated by the world of horse racing and aspires to be a jockey.

“It’s a one-man play – and a very physical play,” said Montano, during a phone interview from the theater in Malvern.

“As a jockey, there is movement with me riding — along with an amazing sound design that Brian Ronan and I brought together.

Ronan, the show’s sound engineer, supplies the nearby racehorse whinnying. I’m portraying 24 different characters – all with different voices.”

The story starts with a young Montano.

When only entering his teenage years, Montano, known to his family as Bobby, fell in love with “West Side Story” and, in particular, with the character of Bernardo. He was stopped in his youthful ambition by his size. Just over five feet, he had retreated into timidity as a response to being regularly picked on at school.

Behind his father’s back, his mother took him to Belmont Park.

“We went to church together one Sunday and then went over to Belmont Park,” said Montano, who was born in Bayside, Queens, and raised in Hempstead, LI. “I fell in love with the place and the horses.”

Montano started regularly going to Belmont Raceway with his neighbors who work there.

“I had a newspaper delivery route with the L.I. Press,” said Montaro. “At one of the houses, I talked to the people about the mulch they were using. They said it wasn’t mulch – that I was probably smelling the horse manure from the car’s tires.”

His newspaper customers were Bob and Sue Duncan, who were major figures at Belmont Park.

“I begged them to take me with them to the track,” said Montano.

At Belmont Park, Montano was confronted by jockeys, especially by Robert A. Pineda. Impressed at the powerful Pineda presence, Montano switched from wanting to grow to wanting to remain small so he could pursue a career as a jockey.

Montano became determined to become a jockey. Eventually, Pineda became his mentor.

Unfortunately, his dreams of remaining a jockey blew up. Montano continued to grow physically – from 5-foot, 4-inches to 5-8 and 110 pounds.

The day before riding Sow & Reap in a major race, Montano weighed in at 116 pounds. He had to shed 12 pounds overnight. What he had to do to accomplish is a main part of the plot.

“I did all kinds of things to keep my weight down – black beauties, coke, flipping food on daily basis,” said Montano.

By the time he was 18, Montano had outgrown his silks.

“When I couldn’t make it as a jockey, it was ‘small’ because I’m not,” said Montano. “When I couldn’t ride anymore, I didn’t have anything to do with my life.

“I had to transfer disciples from jockey to dance. I knew I had to work – and I had to work hard.”

Montano had dancing skills he developed when he was young, so he decided to delve further into dance. He applied to Adelphi University’s dance department at age 20 without any prior training. He was accepted and offered a full scholarship.

“One week before graduating, I got a role in ‘Cats’ on Broadway,” said Montano. “I had the role of Pouncival and was the understudy for Mr. Mistofelees. I did that for four-and-one-half years.”

His career was successful from the start, and he worked with great directors and choreographers such as Hal Prince, Rob Marshall, and Jerome Robbins. He has also worked with Chita Rivera in “Kiss of The Spiderwoman, sang and danced with Peter Allen in “Legs Diamond,” and starred as Ozzie in “On The Town” (directed by the legendary George C. Wolfe).

Montano’s creativity now spans genres. The multitasker ventured into plays, film, and television.
In television, he guest starred in Showtime’s “City On A Hill,” “Bull,” “Prodigal Son,” “Blue Bloods,” “NCIS: New Orleans,” “Elementary,” “Search Party,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Sex In The City,” “CSI: Miami, Law & Order,” and HBO’s film “Undefeated” (directed by John Leguizamo).

His film credits include “Shame” with Michael Fassbender, playing opposite Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix in “The Yards” and partnering with Catherine Zeta-Jones in “Chicago.” Other notable works include “Hustling,” “The Strike,” “Center Stage,” “It Runs in The Family,” and “Passionada.”

“SMALL,” which is directed by Jessi D. Hill, is celebrating its area debut with the run at People’s Light’s Steinbright Stage – and the first date of its 2024 national tour.

“This will be my third show at People’s Light,” said Montano. “The first was ‘Fallow’ in 2012 followed by ‘Barcelona’ in 2012. I really enjoy working here at People’s Light.”

Video link for “SMALL” – https://youtu.be/DlzN88yAn8o.

“SMALL’ will run now through February 4. Tickets are $47.

This weekend, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) will continue its pattern of presenting concerts by tributes acts.

Kategory5 Band will headline a show at the venue in West Chester on February 2 followed by “Absolute Adele Tribute with Jennifer Cella” on February 3.

Local favorite Kategory5 Band, which first performed at Kennett Flash in 2014, features Kat Pigliacampi (lead vocals, keyboards), Jeremy Green (drums, vocals), Brian Becker (lead guitar, vocals), Kyle Frederick (bass guitar) and John Cassidy (synthesizer).

Kategory5 Band is a cover band featuring a diverse group of talented — and veteran – musicians.

“All of us have played music in the area for decades,” said Pigliacampi. “We have a big fan base from our solo work. We took 70s and 80s songs that aren’t necessarily mainstream and brought them back to life. We’re mixing it up. Our goal is to play a good nostalgic show.”

Pigliacampi listed some of the bands whose songs Kategory 5 has in its repertoire — a diverse list that includes Abba, Led Zeppelin, Heart, Journey, Dave Mason, REO, the Doobie Brothers, Foreigner, America and the Beatles.

The show on Friday night is billed as “Kategory5- Goodson Girls Benefit.”

The band posted this – “Join us for an evening of music performed by Kategory5, a classic rock band covering the best of rock, blues, R&B and pop music from the 70’s & 80’s in an all-ages show to benefit The Goodson Girls.

Sierra Goodson suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm in September and is doing intense outpatient therapy to overcome some ongoing issues. Her mom, Linda, had a bad fall in November when a flight of stairs collapsed under her. She suffered serious injuries including a broken lumbar spine and will be unable to work for some time.

Money raised will go directly to the Goodsons to help alleviate the tremendous financial burden they are going through with these medical issues that are completely out of their control.”

Video link for Kategory5 Band —  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXThDpnr7mk.

The show at Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center on February 2 will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $40.

“Absolute Adele Tribute with Jennifer Cella” features vocalist and songwriter Jennifer Cella, who is best known for her work as lead vocalist with the multi-platinum group Trans-Siberian Orchestra, portrays Adele with stunning accuracy alongside some of the finest musicians in the industry.

Cella’s voice can be heard on the timeless classic and fan favorite “Christmas Canon Rock,” as well as “Different Wings” from TSO’s “The Lost Christmas Eve” album, which is currently the twentieth best-selling Christmas/holiday album of all time in the U.S.

The show by Jennifer Cella on February 3 will start at 7:30 p.m.

Video link for “Absolute Adele Tribute with Jennifer Cella” — https://youtu.be/uao9EdeGRmc.

Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 at the door.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985,www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) has a pair of attractive main stage shows on tap for this weekend.

On February 2, the Delaware County venue will be the high-powered band Swing That Cat.

Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

The show on February 3 will be a twin bill featuring Beaucoup Blue and Neil Tapp.

Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

Every Sunday, Jamey’s presents “SUNDAY BLUES BRUNCH & JAM” featuring the Philly Blues Kings. Another weekly event at the venue is the “THURSDAY NIGHT JAZZ JAM” featuring the Dave Reiter Trio.

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