Leslie Bricusse received the Oscar for the score of Doctor Dolittle, and another for the best song – Talk To The Animals. But this was just one song and one show among many that brought him accolades, writes Michael Holland…
Mark Williams takes up the lead role in this touring production of Doctor Dolittle, and is ably supported by two Coronation Street stalwarts, Vicky Entwhistle as Polynesia the parrot that teaches the doctor how to talk to the animals, and Brian Capron in the dual roles of a goodie and a baddie, plus Adèle Anderson of Fascinating Aida distinction playing two baddies with an evil twinkle in her eye.
The doctor’s surgery is a mix between curing humans and animals, which leads to a mix up of medicines between Mrs Bellowes, the local magistrate and leader of the local hunt, and a dog with distemper. Oops. Dolittle then finds himself in her dock accused of stealing a cow when he was merely finding out what its malady was. It didn’t help his case when he said under oath that the cow had told him what was wrong, or when he called Bellowes’ dog as a witness for the defence to tell the court how much red wine, white wine and port the good lady had drunk the night before! He was promptly sent off to jail and just as quickly liberated by his friends before sailing off in search of the Great Pink Snail where he encounters even more bad characters. And that was where the real fun began and we got to hear the best song, I’ve Never Seen Anything Like It, as the Pushmi-Pullyu reared its, er, two heads!
I was with young Haydn who thought there were ‘far too many soppy love songs and not enough funny bits’. And I think you could feel the buzz in the auditorium waxing and waning throughout the performance amongst the younger audience members each time the performance slowed down. But generally there was a real atmosphere of enjoyment. There definitely was with the young boy in front who felt a need to tell his mum, his nan and me whenever something happened that he liked, and that was most often when a new puppet appeared. His enthusiasm was quite contagious.
And, yes, the puppetry was masterful. I particularly liked the movement of the cats, the dog and the seagulls. Made to look simple, but very effective. However, the stars of the show were the sabre tooth tiger, a contraption operated by one man inside that I would dearly love to don and run down Bromley High Street in; and the giant pink snail that took up most of the stage. A true giant.
Kids over a certain age will love Doctor Dolittle, as well as most adults.
Doctor Dolittle is on at Churchill Theatre, High Street, Bromley, BR1 until November 24th. Times: Tues – Sat 7.30pm; matinees 2.30pm; Sun 1pm & 5pm. Admission: £24.50 – £47.50. Phone: 0203 285 6000