KPBS AIRDATE: March 10, 2006
There are two Dolittles in town: Dr. D and Alfred P. One talks to animals, and the other is a drunken sot whose daughter rises from flower seller to near-princess. “My Fair Lady” is in and the Doctor is out. The national tour of “Dr. Dolittle” did little for me. The production was closed down several months ago, the star was replaced and the whole show was retooled, with Tony Award winner Tommy Tune brought in as director and star. It still doesn’t fly, even if the Giant Lunar Moth does. The puppet animals are cute and sometimes clever, but the show wears thin from the opening number. The towering Tune, he of the mile-long legs and million-dollar smile, sports a wavering English accent, and sadly for a former superstar, he’s weak in both singing and dancing. And whenever the uninspired choreography veers into intricacy, he slips offstage. There’s a cloying, condescending feel to the show, which fairly begs for love and laughter. Alas. The book, by Lee Tannen, is filled with puerile puns. The music, by Leslie Bricusse, is pleasant but generally forgettable, heavy on romantic ballads which are out of place in a show that seems geared to a 4-year old mentality. As the Doctor’s love interest, Broadway veteran Dee Hoty is underused, but her vocal vibrato is on overdrive. The most entertaining performance is by sprightly Joel Blum as the gruff but agile circus-owner, Blossom. Despite the obligatory, if sluggish standing ovation on opening night, the 90-minute musical was a long slog that couldn’t even keep the kids awake.
Now, if you want to visit musical theater heaven, you’ll rush to Cygnet Theatre’s “My Fair Lady.” The beloved Lerner and Lowe masterwork is turned into a spectacular little chamber piece. The exceptional ensemble of ten seems like a veritable horde, making split-second changes of costume and social class, thanks to the brilliant, monochromatic clothes designed by Jeanne Reith. Cygnet founder/artistic director Sean Murray displays a breathtaking array of talent. He directed and designed the piece, he created the beautifully evocative pen-and-ink drawings of London that serve as projected background, and he stars as Henry Higgins, the self-righteous linguist who bets he can turn a yowling, cockney into a high-toned lady. He’s terrific in all his efforts. Though the music is pre-recorded, the orchestrations are outstanding, and David Brannen’s choreography is lively and comical. Amy Biedel is a find as Eliza, with a sweet voice and lovely presence. As her father, funnyman Ron Choularton is a show-stopper. Sean Cox brings a splendid tenor to Eliza’s adoring suitor, Freddy. The production is just about flawless, and with a little bit of luck, the whole county will see this show.
©2006 Patté Productions Inc.