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Doctor Dolittle The Musical at Churchill Theatre | Review

The eagerly awaited new musical Dr Dolittle by Leslie Bricusse is back and touring the UK. Based on the popular 1967 film with Rex Harrison, Dr Dolittle follows the eccentric Dr Dolittle on his exciting journey along with his human companions and his exotic menagerie of animal friends on an outrageous adventure to find the Giant Pink Sea Snail, that holds the secret of life and making the world a happier place. Doctor Dolittle teaches us not only to talk to the animals but to listen to them as well! This exciting musical adventure is from the producers of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Addams Family. With outstanding puppetry, a large, talented cast and fantastic music this is sure to be a family hit.

Mark Williams as Doctor Dolittle in DOCTOR DOLITTLE. Credit Alastair Muir

Mark Williams as Doctor Dolittle in DOCTOR DOLITTLE. Credit Alastair Muir

The set, designed by Tom Piper, is a brilliant representation of the classic children’s books with the backdrops and set pieces being made to look like pages of a story. This clever and novel approach stands out from usual set designs and feels completely in keeping with this show. With even Dr Dolittle’s house and boat being constructed from books, the theme is carried on throughout the production. The puppets and puppetry, by Nick Barnes and Jimmy Grimes, is outstanding. Again the puppets, at times, look as though they are constructed of origami card and their movements are intricate and subtle. It is fantastic to see puppets being used rather than costumes and really makes the animals into characters in their own right. The ensemble cast members who take on various roles throughout the show must be commended for their puppetry skills! Polynesia, voiced cleverly by Vicky Entwistle, moves characterfully and gracefully from the outset and all of the animal movements have been thought of from the excitable chimpanzee, Chee Chee, to Dr Dolittle’s trustworthy dog, Jip. The cleverly designed puppets will impress both children and adults in the audience as they bring each animal to life.

Mark Williams is a perfect Dr Dolittle. Whilst his vocals may not be the strongest he certainly makes up for this with his fantastic characterisation and commitment. It is easy to believe he is the eccentric vet who finds it easier to talk to animals than to humans as he commands the audience’s attention. Patrick Sullivan’s Matthew Mugg is brilliant. His vocals are crisp and clear and complement Mollie Melia-Redgrave’s vocals effortlessly particularly during their duet ‘Something in Your Smile’. Mollie’s powerful soprano voice is shown off beautifully in ‘You’re Impossible’ and ‘Beautiful Things’. Adele Anderson makes a great Lady Bellowes during the first act, particularly during the court scene, but unfortunately during the second act her character Poison Arrow lacks passion and her vocals do not match the pantomime villain character. However, it is the energetic ensemble cast who truly deserve the most praise. Without this large ensemble, there would be no show. They are constantly on stage taking on various roles and their puppetry skills are second-to-none.

Mollie Melia-Redgrave as Emma Fairfax in DOCTOR DOLITTLE. Credit Alastair Muir.

Mollie Melia-Redgrave as Emma Fairfax in DOCTOR DOLITTLE. Credit Alastair Muir.

The direction by Christopher Renshaw helps create a fresh, new musical which will be enjoyed by children and adults. There are many witty one-liners aimed at the older members of the audience whilst the sheer visual appeal of the puppets and colourful settings will be enough to entertain the younger members. This musical tells the story of Dr Dolittle clearly and even those who have no prior knowledge of the story will find themselves enjoying the easy to follow plotline. During the first act, the show moves at a good pace with some stand-out scenes such as the circus where the choreography by Josh Rhodes is used to good effect. Throughout the show, the choreography is energetic and does not feel forced or shoe-horned in. However, the second act doesn’t feel so polished and loses pace slightly with some scenes lacking emotion and impact. Unfortunately, the final battle with Poison Arrow feels lacklustre and could definitely do with some work. But it must be noted that this is a brand new version of this musical and since previews it has already been through rewrites, so given time hopefully issues such as this will be ironed out.

Whilst Dr Dolittle needs some tightening up, particularly in the second act, overall this is a brilliant new musical. The puppetry alone makes this production a worthwhile visit to the theatre and the clever set makes it stand out from the crowd. With its fun storyline, enchanting characters and outstanding range of animals it is sure to enthral audiences.

4 Stars

Review by Amanda reynolds

You’ve never seen anything like it! Doctor Dolittle returns to the stage in Leslie Bricusse’s acclaimed family musical.

Join the eccentric Doctor, his human companions and his exotic menagerie of animal friends on an extraordinary adventure to find the Giant Pink Sea Snail, that holds the secret of life and making the world a happier place. With help from the Pushmi-Pullyu and his trusty sidekick Polynesia the Parrot, the larger-than-life Doctor Dolittle teaches us not only to talk to the animals but to listen to them as well!

Based on the popular 1967 film with Rex Harrison, this spectacular new stage show stars Mark Williams (Father Brown, The Fast Show, 101 Dalmatians, The Borrowers, Shakespeare in Love and seven of the Harry Potter film series) as Doctor Dolittle. Joining his exciting journey are the superb Adèle Anderson (Fascinating Aïda) as Lady Bellowes and the dangerous Poison Arrow, the hilarious Vicky Entwistle (Coronation Street, Ackley Bridge, Les Misérables) as his trusty side-kick Polynesia and with Brian Capron (Coronation Street, Grange Hill, Where The Heart Is) playing both the vivacious Albert Blossom and the mighty Straight Arrow.

DOCTOR DOLITTLE THE MUSICAL
Music & Lyrics in association with Churchill Theatre Bromley
Book, Music and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse
Based on the Doctor Dolittle stories by Hugh Lofting and the Twentieth Century Fox Film
Performed by arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe) Ltd.

CAST:
Dr Dolitte – Mark Williams
Lady Bellowes and Poison Arrow – Adele Anderson
Polynesia the Parrott – Vicky Entwistle
Albert Blossom / Straight Arrow – Brian Capron
Emma Fairfax – Mollie Melia-Redgrave
Matthew Mugg – Patrick Sullivan
Harry Cross – Tommy Stubbins
Elliot Morris – Tommy Stubbins
Quillan O’Meara McDonald – Tommy Stubbins
Louis Parker – Tommy Stubbins
Elliott Rose – Tommy Stubbins
Thomas Ryan – Tommy Stubbins
Femi Akinfolarin – Ensemble
Erica Jayne Alden – Ensemble
Lydia Bannister – Ensemble
Joel Baylis – Ensemble
Evonnee Bentley-Holder – Ensemble
Jane Crawshaw – Ensemble
Emily Essery – Ensemble
Jacob Fisher – Ensemble
George Hankers – Ensemble
Catherine Hannay – Ensemble
Evan James – Ensemble
Leon Kay – Ensemble
Emma Lloyd – Ensemble
Ross Meagrow – Ensemble
Owen McHugh – Ensemble
Tom Norman – Ensemble
Emily Ann Potter – Ensemble

CREATIVE:
Director – Christopher Renshaw
Set & Costume Designer – Tom Piper
Choreographer – Josh Rhodes
Musical Supervisor & New Musical Arrangements – Mike Dixon
Puppet Designer – Nick Barnes
Puppet Director – Jimmy Grimes
Lighting Designer – Chris Davey
Sound Designer – Ben Harrison
Musical Director – Josh Sood
Orchestrator – Jennifer Green
Casting Director – James Orange CDG
Children’s Casting Director -Ellie Collyer-Bristow CDG
Associate Designer – Max Johns
Associate Choreographer – Lee Wilkins
Associate Puppet Designer – Caroline Bowman
Assistant Choreographer – Lizzi Franklin
Resident Director – Jack Nurse

FRI 9 – SAT 24 NOVEMBER 2018
https://churchilltheatre.co.uk/

Summary
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Dr Dolittle
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Amanda Reynolds

About Amanda Reynolds

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