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5:53 PM / Saturday June 22, 2024

2 Feb 2024

Sheila Jones stars in the national tour of ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’

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February 2, 2024 Category: Entertainment Posted by:

By Kharisma McIlwaine
ABOVE PHOTO: Photo: Joan Marcus/Academy of Music

The 1993 film “Mrs. Doubtfire” captured the hearts of many over 30 years ago. The film, based on the 1987 Alias Madame novel “Madame Doubtfire,” tells the story of Daniel Hillard, an out-of-work actor, brilliantly played by the late Robin Williams, and his quest to spend more time with his children amidst a very difficult divorce. With the help of his brother, Daniel transforms into the beloved Mrs. Doubtfire and is hired (unbeknownst to his ex-wife) as his children’s incredibly over-the-top but loving nanny.

Shelia Jones

In 2019, the musical adaptation of “Mrs. Doubtfire” made its world premiere in Seattle and later premiered on Broadway in March of 2020. The production is currently on the road for the U.S national tour. The cast includes Philadelphia’s own Rob McClure as Daniel/Mrs. Doubtfire, and Maggie Lakis as Miranda Hillard. Ensemble cast member Sheila Jones spoke with the SUN about the nostalgia surrounding the story of “Mrs. Doubtfire” and her experience in the show.

Jones, a Florida native, began her musical journey in church. She continued cultivating her skills while attending a performing arts high school and went on to attend Florida State University graduating with a degree in musical theater. After landing a role in “Ragtime” in North Carolina, Jones’ love for performance took her across the globe as a performer in Hong Kong Disneyland as Nayla in “The Lion King.”

“I packed up all my stuff and moved to Hong Kong for six months. Then I came back to the states for five days in Florida,” Jones said with a laugh. “I remember my mom being, like, ‘You go halfway across the world, come back for a little bit and move to New York.’ Within five days of being back in the states I moved to New York City. It was really fun. It [being in Hong Kong] was a very eye-opening experience, my first time out of the country and my longest plane ride. The experience was so cool — to be able to be a part of a Disney production with the Disney magic and also in a totally different culture. A lot of cool things happened, but also some strange things — but overall, it was a great experience.”

After a bit of culture shock while pounding the pavements of New York auditioning, a series of “no’s” and a rigorous audition process, Jones heard “yes” to the role as an ensemble cast member in “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

“This audition process for this show specifically had so many rounds to it,” he said. “It’s actually one of my favorite audition stories. I was so bad — I was really bad at it. We had to do the dance combination, and everyone struggled, but I struggled the most. I did the first two counts of eight, and then I made up the rest. He asked me to come back out to do the combination again. By that time, I had completely forgotten it. He was giving notes to different people and he looked at me and said, ‘Can you just’ and I said, ‘What — learn it?’ So, I did my best again, and then they asked me to sing, which shocked me. Honestly, it was the tenacity of it all that did it. I sang, and then I came back one more time to dance. I told myself [that] I obviously I had to be a lot better than I was before. I practiced outside of the audition and came back and slayed it.”

No stranger to the material, Jones had fond memories of the film “Mrs. Doubtfire” from her childhood.

“My introduction was definitely on VHS,” he said. “I remember watching it with my sisters all the time. When I got this job, my middle sister was, like, ‘I’m so excited, I love that movie so much!’ That was my introduction — seeing it on replay.”

“I think it translates really well to the stage… surprisingly well, “Jones said. “Honestly, at first I said, ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ the musical — do we need this?’ But after seeing it, I enjoy how it has translated onto the stage. It has updates like the addition of the internet, because now that’s a big thing. It also takes quite a few lines from the movie as well — the ones that are iconic. If you see the movie, you might expect Robin Williams.

Then you see the play and you see Rob McClure, who plays Mrs. Doubtfire/Daniel, and the way that this man works is so inspiring. It’s a masterclass every time I watch him in action, because he is not Robin Williams — he’s his own entity, and it’s amazing what he does” she explained.

Much like the film, “Mrs. Doubtfire” the musical brings high energy from start to finish.

“It’s a lot of energy,” Jones said. “It has definitely gotten easier, because now I know the steps, but when you add singing to it as well, it’s a different beast. There’s one particular number, “Make Me A Woman” where we twirl off of the stage and just the amount of people that you see leaned over trying to catch their breath is hilarious, but we’re supposed to still be singing at that point, too. It’s a beast of a show physically, but I’ve gotten more used to it, which is great.”

In addition to continuous energy and laughter, the show gifts the audience the same delight the film brought to so many to the stage.
“My sister came to see the show in Hartford, and after the show she said, ‘It’s so big, it’s so high energy… how are you going to keep this up for a year?’ I said, ‘Girl, I know!’ It’s definitely a joyous ride that the audience has been soaking up so lovingly. It’s well received, and I understand why.”

“I honestly want audiences to take away the joy that is within the room, the magic that happens between the audience and the actors on stage,” Jones added. I want them to take a piece of that magic and that joy with them. One of the last songs we sing is “As Long As There Is Love” — it’s going to be alright as long as there is love. Remembering that, especially during times like this, and acting on love instead of anything else — that’s what I want.”

When not spreading love and joy on the stage, Jones is also an intimacy doula. To support her journey on and off the stage, follow her on IG @jo.sheila. “Mrs. Doubtfire” will be at The Academy of Music February 6-18. To find out more information on tickets and showtimes, visit: www.ensembleartsphilly.org.

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