Reviewed by Nikki Cotter
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
At a time when talking to the animals seems much more appealing than talking current affairs, Doctor Dolittle’s arrival at the Lowry for the festive period couldn’t be more perfectly timed.
Writer Leslie Bricusse at the rip age of 87 has reworked his original book to bring the show more up to date adding relevance to the times we’re living in and also added an additional plot twist when it comes to the classic love story element of this tale; no spoilers here though, you’ll have to buy a ticket!
From the start Tom Piper’s bold set design transports us into the pages of a book as Dolittle’s magical journey begins. Larger than life books make for the basis of each scene as the story flows from page to stage and even across the seas.
After being taught to speak ‘animal’ by his trusty sidekick Polynesia (Vicky Entwistle), Doctor Dolittle (Mark Williams) sets sail on a nautical rescue mission in a bid to find and save the Giant pink Sea Snail. There are a few minor bumps along the way with things not quite appearing as they seem but nothing our determined Doctor can’t handle.
Mark Williams brings an enormous warmth to the Doctor and carries off the role with great charm and charisma. Vicky Entwistle gives Polynesia a delightful Northern twang and gifts our feathered friend with heaps and heaps of personality.
Mollie Melia-Redgrave is a delight as Emma Fairfax while Patrick Sullivan has a star quality magnetism which ensures their scenes together are an absolute joy.
Special mention must also go to Thom Ryan who takes on the role of young Tommy Stubbins, he shines on stage and brings a real youthful energy to proceedings.
The puppetry work here really is the star of the show with each and every scene bringing something bigger, bolder, more colourful and even more unbelievable than the last. Puppetry designer Nick Barnes really has pulled out all the stops while kudos must also go to puppetry director Jimmy Grimes and the incredibly hard-working ensemble cast who beautifully bring each fabulous creature to life; their skill as both performers and puppeteers highly impressive.
While the book has been updated and the score includes several new songs there are still occasions where the show stutters as the pace falls a little flat, some of the big numbers feeling like they need a little more oomph; luckily these dips are only temporary and before you know it another visual treat is playing out before you.
Doctor Dolittle is a charming piece of theatre with some breathtakingly magical moments while the message of protecting and learning from the animals remains strong throughout. A traditional and visually stunning production with an important message at it’s heart, delivered in an engaging and entertaining way.
Catch Doctor Dolittle at the Lowry until Saturday 5th January tickets available here.