OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Crown Point young reader is a 'Dr. Dolittle' do-gooder

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-01-07T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Crown Point young reader is a 'Dr. Dolittle' do-gooderPhilip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Extended applause (or should I say A-paws) to Melanie Derwinski, 10, of Crown Point, the daughter of Darlene and Jim Derwinski, for helping raise money (all on her very own) for the family in Valparaiso who take in injured animals to mend before their return to the wild.

She read my story earlier last fall about Dr. Larry McAfee, one of the local veterinarians who depend on the help of Glenn Wiles and his family for this important mission.

I'm pleased to report Melanie has raised nearly $500 for this great cause to help our local version of Dr. Dolittle.

Those of Melanie's generation might only connect with actor Eddie Murphy's 1998 film remake of "Dr. Dolittle," which went on to spawn four sequels: "Dr. Dolittle 2" (2001), "Dr. Dolittle 3" (2006), "Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief" (2008) and "Dr. Dolittle Million Dollar Mutts." (Murphy only appeared in the first two movies, while Kyla Pratt stars as his daughter Maya Dolittle in the three follow-ups films.)

But long before Murphy was "talking to the animals" on the big screen, the original film version of "Dr. Dolittle" was in 1967 and had "a touch and go prognosis" from critics.

The movie production of Hugh Lofting's book of the same name starred Rex Harrison in the lead and tanked in theaters after panned by critics and nearly bankrupting Twentieth Century Fox.

The studio had hoped to recreate the musical success of their 1965 "The Sound of Music."

After its release, top studio heads lost their jobs and the cash-strapped studio was only able to produce one film for release the entire next year.

How the 1967 film took home an Oscar still remains one of the most debated mysteries in Academy Awards history.

A musical stage run of "Dr. Dolittle: The Musical" on Broadway in 2005 also didn't fair so well.

It was supposed to have originally played Chicago in September 2005 at Cadillac Palace Theatre for a pre-Broadway stint, but was pulled and rescheduled for August 2006.

Advance reviews of the musical, including one in Daily Variety, were not kind and suggested the play, which used animal puppets, required reworking.

The star from the short-lived preview run of the musical, Tom Hewitt, was fired and 6-ft-7-inch tall drink of water Tommy Tune was later brought in to star in his place and breath some new life into the production about the man who can "talk to the animals."

I remember Tune gave shivering New York crowds a sneak preview for Thanksgiving 2005 amid much hype during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Donning Dr. Dolittle's ruffled shirt, top hat and tails, Tune sang a couple numbers from the musical while riding an elaborate float.

The Tune tour only played 202 performances and closed after it fulfilled the rescheduled Chicago run in August 2006.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

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