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HomeEntertainmentIn ‘Mrs. Doubtfire,’ a real-life couple gets divorced 8 times a week

In ‘Mrs. Doubtfire,’ a real-life couple gets divorced 8 times a week

After 14 years of marriage and nearly two decades as a couple, Rob McClure and Maggie Lakis have built a bond that can withstand many a challenge — including, it turns out, getting divorced eight times a week.

That’s what the actors do as the stars of the “Mrs. Doubtfire” musical, which plays Oct. 10-15 at the National Theatre. McClure portrays Daniel, the struggling actor who, amid a painful separation, poses as a geriatric Scottish nanny in a ploy to spend more time with his kids. Lakis plays Miranda, Daniel’s estranged wife, who has grown weary of his man-child antics. As the couple’s relationship crumbles onstage, the actors’ real-life connection provides the foundation for that fissure.

“Someone asked me, ‘Oh, is it fun to yell at your husband?’” Lakis says. “It’s actually just not an issue. He’s so lovely and wonderful and giving and such a dynamic and present performer that I just love working with him. So even those scenes, I just feel like we can go there together.”

McClure adds, “It will feel like two people who’ve been together a very long time and who have built a family together. Hopefully, we can convince [the audience] that we are these people going through this tumultuous moment.”

A stage version of the beloved 1993 Robin Williams movie, “Mrs. Doubtfire” embarked last month on a nationwide tour following its 2021 Broadway premiere. While McClure originated the dual roles of Daniel and Mrs. Doubtfire — earning his second Tony nomination — Lakis is new to the musical comedy, which was adapted for the stage by “Something Rotten!” creators Karey Kirkpatrick, Wayne Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell.

“I just love the fact that they’re actually a couple,” says director Jerry Zaks. “They’re willing to take chances with each other, and in the rehearsal room, there’s nothing more fun than navigating and orchestrating that.”

“Mrs. Doubtfire” is getting a second life after struggling to gain steam on Broadway. The show was in previews in March 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic put the production on pause. When it finally opened in December 2021, the show lasted just a month before the omicron surge forced another hiatus. By the time the musical returned in April 2022, the stops and starts had taken their toll on the show, which closed for good a month later.

Since then, however, a revised version of “Mrs. Doubtfire” has enjoyed a well-received run in Manchester, England, followed by a transfer this past spring to London’s West End. Although McClure appeared earlier this year in the Broadway-bound production of “Spamalot” at the Kennedy Center, he turned down the opportunity to continue with that show — ceding his part to Ethan Slater — in favor of reprising his “Mrs. Doubtfire” role on the road.

“It was something that I fell madly in love with,” McClure says. “So when they approached about the tour, it did feel like there was some unfinished business. And once Maggie auditioned for Jerry Zaks and he wanted to cast her as Miranda, I thought, ‘Well, now that certainly makes this a whole lot easier to contemplate.’”

For Lakis, the role of Miranda — expanded from the film to imbue the beleaguered character with more agency — was inherently appealing. But she also relished the opportunity to immerse herself in the production after she and the couple’s 4-year-old daughter, Sadie, were forced to keep their distance on Broadway because of coronavirus protocols that prevented family from visiting backstage.

“To be welcomed into the company and to be telling the story with [McClure], it’s very special because I know how hard he works in the show and what an amazing performance he’s giving,” Lakis says. “So it’s wonderful to be able to experience that with him.”

Sharing the stage is nothing new to McClure and Lakis, who met in 2005 while performing in a regional theater production of “Grease” in Marlton, N.J. They have since toured together with “Avenue Q” in 2007 and “Something Rotten!” in 2017, and co-starred in productions of “Our Show of Shows” in 2012 in Flat Rock, N.C., and “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway” in 2018 in St. Louis. But this is the first time the couple have toured as parents, with Sadie joining them on the 10-month, coast-to-coast trip before starting kindergarten next fall.

“It was an amazingly perfect window,” Lakis says, before McClure jumps in to finish the thought: “for one last big family adventure before she starts school.”

Even though traveling with a 4-year-old presents natural challenges, McClure and Lakis note that the production helped them secure a nanny and that the actors playing their characters’ children have made Sadie feel at home with the touring company.

The show also feels like a homecoming for a couple who initially fell for each other while working together. Whether the musical is highlighting McClure’s comedic high jinks or Lakis’s heart-wrenching singing, “Mrs. Doubtfire” gives both actors the best seat in the house to watch their spouse shine onstage.

“When you’re married to someone, you might forget their superpowers,” McClure says. “You just get into the day-to-day of, you know, making breakfast for your 4-year-old. It’s nice to have a daily reminder of what makes your partner so extraordinary.”

National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-628-6161. thenationaldc.com.

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