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Apollo - Doctor Dolittle

19th December 2000 to 20th January 2001.
The story of the man who talks with the animals.

This is the review from the NWN.

Brilliant show!

'Doctor Dolittle', at the Apollo Theatre, Oxford, until January 20

Musicals are not normally a part of my cultural diet - a bit like having a meal that consists entirely of a syrupy dessert - so it was with a flagging appetite that I prepared for the anticipated saccharine assault of 'Doctor Dolittle' at the Apollo.

Happily, my 10-year-old daughter Camilla had no such qualms, and interrogated me at length on the journey there as to how the animals might be represented. Her curiosity proved infectious, and by the time the curtain rose in the packed theatre we were both in an alarming state of anticipation - a state I expected all to quickly to be dispelled by a creaking narrative, forgettable music and two-dimensional characters.

Well, Leslie Bricusse's adaptation of his own 1965 screenplay, lyrics and score ( a film most notable for the cantankerous performance of Rex Harrison) does indeed creak in the plot department, the music disappears into the ether, and most of the characters have not been developed beyond the most basic of caricatures. A bit of a turkey then, you might conclude. Au contraire.

The initially unappetising affair is massively redeemed by three things: the jaw-dropping design; Phillip Schofields artlessly charismatic performance in the title role, and the sheer brilliance of the animal characterisations, using a mixture of actors in bodysuits, hand puppetry and animatronics (developed by the Jim Henson Creature Workshop). This is a BRILLIANT family show!

Some of the visual effects are so astonishing they drew gasps of wonder from the audience - a rare feat in this age of virtual reality - and I don't want to take away from their impact by describing them. Suffice it to say that Camilla rated this as one of her best theatre experiences, and her sceptical father was equally won over. It runs until January 20 and is guaranteed to revive the most jaded post-Christmas palate.