Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Doctor Dolittle the musical

Book, music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, based on the stories by Hugh Lofting
Produced by Music and Lyrics in association with Churchill Theatre Bromley
The Lowry
11 December 2018 to 05 January 2019

Based on the 1967 film and a previous stage adaptation, this new, all-the-family live action musical has apparently been somewhat re-worked by the original composer/lyricist Leslie Bricusse (still around and impressively active at the age of 87).

So those who know the originals well will find a few surprises and a change of emphasis. There are a couple of new songs, and a plot re-work means it’s now Matthew Muggs who wins the heart of Emma, rather than the Doctor himself, which makes a lot more sense,

There’s also a shift towards emphasising a little more the importance of looking after our planet’s endangered species, with the producers having teamed up for this aspect of the show with the World Wildlife Fund.

So, much the same then, but also different and more acceptable perhaps to 21st century audiences …

After a major revelation brought on by Polynesia the parrot (Vicky Entwistle), who teaches him how to Talk To The Animals, eccentric Dr D (Mark Williams) sets off on a journey with his human companions: friends Matthew Mugg (Patrick Sullivan) and Emma (Mollie Melia-Redgrave); plus a menagerie of animals including the exotic Pushmi-Pullyu and the trusty Polynesia.

They are trying to find the Giant Pink Sea Snail, an exotic creature said to hold the secret of life and making the world a happier place.

With a cast of around 30, an on-stage band secreted at first floor level, lots of storybook settings in pale pastels, dozens of animal puppets and a final highly impressive Giant Pink Sea Snail, there’s plenty of stage-filling value for money up there.

It’s a company show and it’s a strong company, from the principals to the puppet operators. Williams’ Dolittle leads them with assured eccentricity, with Sullivan providing the cheeky chappie stand-out sidekick.

The original never was in the Best Musical category, and the show here would benefit overall from a little more thrust and some cuts, but it’s quite an eyeful and while you might not come out raving about it, it is a very attractive family alternative to yet another pantomime.

Reviewer: Alan Hulme