PROVIDENCE — The way touring actors Rob McClure and Maggie Lakis see it, if they can’t be home, they might as well take home on the road with them — even if it means landing in a new city just about every week.
The married couple, whose family includes their 4-year-old daughter, Sadie, and two cats, Linus and Emmet, star in the North American tour of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” coming to the Providence Performing Arts Center Oct. 17-22.
”It’s like a circus,” said Lakis, 45, of her traveling family. She plays Miranda Hillard, a mother of three who unknowingly hires her ex-husband, Daniel (played by McClure), who has disguised himself as an older Scottish nanny — Euphegenia Doubtfire — so he can spend more time with his children after their divorce.
The musical, which, due to the pandemic had a short run on Broadway in March 2020 and then another brief run in 2022, is now playing in London’s West End in addition to the US tour. It is based on the 1993 movie of the same name that starred Robin Williams in the role played by McClure, and Sally Field as the character played by Lakis.
This isn’t the first time that Lakis and McClure, 41, have toured together. They were in national tours of “Avenue Q” and “Something Rotten” together, too. But this is their first time traveling together with a child.
”Part of touring has become finding the closest playground in every downtown metropolis across the country,” McClure quipped. He said the actors who play his and Lakis’s children in the musical are a bit older than Sadie, but are “so down to play with her” and “have been so lovely and welcoming to her.”
Lakis said that their daughter “really likes staying in a hotel and telling people that she’s staying in a hotel.”
”She loves that they hand out free hot cocoa in the lobby at breakfast,” she said. “Once we get off tour, she’s going to wonder where her complimentary hot cocoa has gone.”
Home for the family is Philadelphia, where Lakis is from (McClure is from New Milford, N.J.). But because they also have work in New York City — McClure has been in eight Broadway shows, including the short-lived “Mrs. Doubtfire,” for which he was nominated for a Tony Award — they also have a place in the city.
In a recent phone call from Washington, D.C., where the tour was on its third stop, McClure and Lakis talked about what she called the “amazing” reception the show is receiving from audiences so far.
”I just think it’s what people are craving,” she said. “It’s a family-friendly show with a lot of heart and a lot of laughs.”
McClure said that people are “fascinated” by the logistics of the Doubtfire transformation. He said he switches into nanny mode — prosthetics and all — 31 times during each show. It takes a team of four — they’re known as “Team Effie” (on account of Doubtfire’s first name) he said — and the longest transformation span he has is 90 seconds, while the shortest is 18 seconds.
”We say they’re like the Indianapolis 500 pit crew,” he joked. “It’s really thrilling for the audience because the stakes feel so much higher because it’s real. No one is yelling ‘cut’ and going to their trailer for five hours. It’s in real time … and I think that’s something that we have over the movie.”
Lakis said the message of “family being something that you get to define” is one that hits home for many people.
”I remember when the movie came out and having friends whose parents were divorced. This movie meant the world to them because it was the first time that the happy ending of a movie wasn’t the parents getting back together, and it felt like a movie for them and their situation,” she said. “It really meant a lot to them that there could possibly be a happy ending. That [their parents] didn’t stay married, it didn’t work out, but they could still be happy and find happiness and redefine what their family means.”
McClure said he has a folder at home in Philadelphia filled with more than 200 letters from people — mostly children and parents — who saw the show and shared with him how much it impacted them.
”There is one from a 26-year-old woman who said she and her husband had just found out that they couldn’t have children. She wrote that she was trying to broach the subject of adoption with her husband and didn’t quite know how to bring it up,” McClure recalled. “After seeing Mrs. Doubtfire’s monologue about how as long as there is love, a family could look like anything, she decided that night, after the show, to bring it up to her husband while they were in a parking garage waiting for their car.”
”She said,” he continued, “that I just want you to know that in two weeks we’re picking up our adopted son. Thank you, Mrs. Doubtfire.”
McClure said that while there is something “amazing” about being on a Broadway stage, he actually prefers audiences on tour.
”There is an enthusiasm people have for their hometown theater. And I feel like there’s a meeting of mutual gratitude where we show up and we’re thrilled to share the show, and the community shows up and are thrilled that we brought them the show,” he explained. “And it’s such the right celebratory energy. It’s exactly what you hope for when a curtain goes up and you meet an audience. It’s gratitude coming both ways.”
He added: “And you also bond with your company in a way that you don’t on Broadway. On Broadway, you show up at a half hour, you do the show, and everybody goes home. On tour, you’re on the same bus to the same plane to the same hotel to the same brunch to the same lunch to the same rehearsal to the same theater, and after the theater you’re all desperately trying to find a place that’s open for food after the show gets out. You really do become a family on the road.”
Both Lakis and McClure said they feel fortunate to be in “Mrs. Doubtfire” and to perform in it together.
”Sometimes he’ll get an out-of-town job or I’ll get an out-of-town job and when that happens, you’re somewhat separate from that whole chapter of their lives. It’s not the same when they have to tell you about what’s going on in their lives,” Lakis said. “But this is an adventure we get to share.”
McClure said they’ve been playing couples for more than 18 years. He joked that the nearly two-decade mark “is crazy to say out loud.”
”What is cool is that [the characters they play] hit these life landmarks along with us. Like in ‘Avenue Q,’ we were playing puppets falling in love, and then in `Something Rotten,’ [we are] this young family deciding if they wanted to have kids — which is exactly where we were at the time,” he said. “And in Mrs. Doubtfire, it’s a couple who has a family — but we’re going to skip the divorce part. It is amazing the stages of life seems to mirror where we’re at as we go.”
“Mrs. Doubtfire” is at the Providence Performing Arts Center Oct. 17-22. For more information, visit ppacri.org.