Based on the popular 1967 film with Rex Harrison, Doctor Dolittle the musical tells the story of a doctor who learns to speak the language of various animals and treats them as patients.
This musical sees Dolittle search for the Giant Pink Sea Snail which holds the secret of life and makes the world a happier place. As this was my first time at a theatre performance I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew from friends that you have to at least go to the theatre once so decided that my first experience would be the Dolittle musical. Apart from the exception of Grease and The Lion King I have never been a true fan of musicals but what I witnessed was something to be in awe of.
As Doctor Dolittle returns to the stage in Leslie Bricusse’s family musical starring Mark Williams who is the Doc himself (The borrowers, Harry Potter film series) working alongside Vicky Entwistle (Coronation Street & Les Misérables) who plays the parrot Polynesia and Thomas Ryan as Tommy Stubbins, I thought were the stars of the show. And not forgetting the villain Lady Bellows/Poison Arrow, played by Adele Anderson.
But before I get into the nitty gritty of the show I want to mention firstly that the props were genuinely phenomenal. The puppetry was really intelligent, the set design was perfect, there is so much to look at and admire. The designs for scene 5 when they got to Sea Star Island is just beautiful, the flowers they had looked handmade & painted, all I wanted to do was take them home! The aesthetics and look of the props like the revolving room was genius. The art style accented perfectly with the story and what it was trying to portray. I cannot tell you how taken aback I was when I saw the great pink sea snail, Tom Piper set and costume designer, many hats off to you! Just outstanding the way the snail filled the entire stage with its light up shell which the actors could actually climb into looked Phenomenal.
Not a bad word to say about stage design. Absolutely brilliant, as well as marvellous visual puppetry by Nick Barnes, Puppet Designer. He did a great job with all the animals produced including the parrot the pig and of course the Pushmi-Pullyu, basically a two headed lama who managed to skip during scene 6 whilst singing the song “I’ve never seen anything like it”. Evan James and Ross Meagrow who played the Pushmi deserve some sort of prize for managing to skip in sync whilst being back to back in full costume, it was pure skill. The lighting was incredible also, there was a shipwreck scene where it was different shades of blue which looked enchanting. Chris Davey’s light design was on point throughout the entire performance which gave it a lease of life.Lighting is crucial when trying to convey emotion as well as the music. If you have an orchestra, it should be at the forefront to producing a great show. The Orchestrator Jen Green and Musical supervisor Mike Dixon had a real job to portray the emotion needed from sound and ended up with the musical composition being excellent, exactly what you want to go alongside a great performance.
The music told its own story as well as the props and production, these things are what stood out to me the most. Those props made me want to make a prop for a stage, I wanted to get creative myself!
This is a fantastic musical to take your family to, there a couple of slightly cheesy jokes but that is to be expected and did not dumb down the air of intelligence the production portrayed. But a family show, fun for all for sure. Extremely well produced, the choreography was crisp and actor’s performances were second to none. A little constructive criticism I will give out is related to the plot of Emma Fairfax and Matthew Mugg. The storyline of the two lovers I felt wasn’t exactly relevant to the story of Dr Dolittle. As actors they were great, a tad over action but I felt like they wanted to give their best performance. I felt that energy from where I was sitting.
I was more interested in the story line of Dolittle himself and little Tommy Stubbins. I felt their interactions could’ve been a lot more inclusive to the overall ark of the story. Maybe the story line would’ve been a little richer in terms of context.
Overall a wonderful message for everyone about animals, a glorious performance from the actors themselves and again stage design, props, production and music were absolutely perfect. While I feel this is aimed at the mass audience it still has a prominent message behind it about animals and how we seem them. Especially for the kids but the adults could just as easily see the importance of the question which is, why we don’t treat animals equally? It doesn’t matter if they talk another language, why can’t we learn to have compassion, be kinder and more understanding as we are animals ourselves, learn to live with them but also with yourself. As was portrayed in the show, Dolittle sung a very moving piece called “Like Animals” which was clear recondition of the ways in which we see our furry friends.
Placed with an aura of sense of self and identity Dolittle himself was attempting to get on better with humans learning not to be “impossible” all the time which represents a message of patience and understanding for your fellow human beings. As well as the wonderful dynamics surrounding the production there were enough songs to really have your pick.
It was one of the plays that if you didn’t go and watch it you could be kicking yourself later. As Dr Dolittle the Musical is still in its infancy having only been on stage since the 9th November I am expecting to hear great things about it.
The hard work, sweat and tears that went into making this musical shouldn’t be ignored, a terrific watch for all. A big shout out to the Director Christopher Renshaw, you have put together something that people will love for a long time.
I’ve never seen anything like it!