Adventure of a lifetime: ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ tour brings 8-year-old Naperville actress home

Less than two years ago, 8-year-old actress Emerson Mae Chan made her professional debut at Paramount Theatre.

The third-grader understudied the role of Gretl in the Aurora theater’s November 2022 revival of “The Sound of Music.”

Today the Aurora-born, Naperville-raised youngster is co-starring in the national tour of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” the musical adapted from the hit 1993 film starring Robin Williams as Daniel Hillard, a struggling actor and divorced dad who poses as the kindly Scottish nanny Euphegenia Doubtfire in order to spend more time with his three children.

“I love touring with the show. It’s been really great so far,” said Chan. The show runs through March 10 at the James M. Nederlander Theatre in Chicago.

Chan, who described the tour as an adventure, plays Natalie, youngest daughter of Daniel and his ex-wife, Miranda.

“She’s a great character,” said Chan, who describes Natalie as fun and silly.

“Families come in all shapes and sizes,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you have two moms and two dads or one mom and one dad as long as there is love.”

Broadway veteran Rob McClure, right, plays the titular Euphegenia Doubtfire in the national tour of the musical “Mrs. Doubtfire,” co-starring his real-life wife, Maggie Lakis, second from right; Naperville 8-year-old Emerson Mae Chan, center; Cody Braverman, second from left; and Giselle Guiterrez, left. Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Her co-stars include Broadway veteran Rob McClure, who plays the titular nanny, a role he created on Broadway.

“He’s really amazing to work with,” said Chan, who met the actor during a musical theater training session in Chicago. “The first day of rehearsal I thought, ‘Is he going to remember me?’ He said, ‘It’s nice to see you.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, he remembers me.”

Like many of her fellow actors, a live theater experience sparked her interest. For Chan that was a Disney World performance of “Festival of the Lion King” she and her family saw four years ago.

“I liked the dancing and singing, and I thought, ‘I could do that,’” said Chan.

A couple of years ago, she appeared in “Annie” with Road Show Inc., a Naperville company that trains aspiring young actors, dancers and singers and offers them performance opportunities. Shortly after, she was cast in the Paramount show. That led to professional representation and the “Mrs. Doubtfire” audition.

“I was pretty nervous. I was not expecting it at all,” she said of landing a role in the first national tour, which commenced last September and concludes in August.

But being on tour is not all singing and dancing. The third-grader and the other young actors spend several hours a day studying with a tutor while on the road.

Naperville resident Emerson Mae Chan co-stars in the national tour of the musical “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

“My teachers gave me curriculum for third grade, so I work on it a few hours every day,” said Chan, who intends to visit Naperville while she’s here.

“I don’t have anything specific planned, but I know I’m going home to spend time with family and friends,” said the youngster, who is accompanied on tour by her mom or dad.

The tour has been an adventure, said Chan, who enjoys visiting new cities and meeting new people. The only downside, she can’t take her Squishmallows. She began collecting the plush toys six years ago.

“They’re big and they’re squishy,” she said. “They’re great for airplanes.”

Her collection, which numbers more than 20, won’t fit in the trunk the production company provides. But Chan intends to make do.

“I think I will bring one,” she said.

• • •

“Mrs. Doubtfire”

When: Runs through March 10

Where: James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago,

Tickets: $30-$140

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