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Doctoring ‘Dolittle’

Doctoring ‘Dolittle’

In a switch for the Nederlanders, their production of “Doctor Dolittle” is also not necessarily Broadway-bound. “We’re exploring. We’ll see how it goes,” says VP Nick Scandalios.

Opening Aug. 2 at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center, the Leslie Bricusse musical has been revamped from its 1998 incarnation in London, where it was a middling success. Since then, songs have been added, the book retooled and, most important, a new director, Glenn Casale, has brought aboard a new design team led by Kenneth Foy, Ann Hould-Ward and Michael Curry (who, together with Julie Taymor, designed the puppets and masks for “The Lion King”). On “Dolittle,” they replace the Jim Henson people who created the animals for the U.K. staging of the Bricusse show.

“The puppeteers were hidden in boxes, and it was lifeless, in my opinion,” says Curry. “Automatons work in theme parks but not onstage. The heart is missing, and even children know it.”

More than “Lion King,” “Dolittle’s” puppets resemble Curry’s work on Nicholas Hytner‘s productions of Philip Pullman‘s “His Dark Materials” at London’s National Theater, wherein 80 characters had their own personal Daemons, which they literally carried with them.

So much for the kiddie approach to “Doctor Dolittle.”

The Nederlanders are producing on the road with the Independent Presenters Network and Van Kaplan, who initially acquired U.S. rights to “Dolittle.”

Curry, meanwhile, is working on a waterfall extravaganza for the entrance to Wynn Las Vegas. Steve Wynn recently announced that “Monty Python’s Spamalot” would play his resort in 2007. Which brings Curry full circle, since he is the “puppetry consultant” on the Monty Python tuner. So he ought to know: Curry expects the Wynn version of “Spamalot” will “go deeper with the Vegas theme.” On Broadway, Camelot is pictured as the Excalibur hotel, one of Wynn’s major competitors in Sin City.

Times are a-changin’

Jodi Kantor leaves her editor post at the Arts & Leisure section of the Sunday New York Times. She now puts on a reporter hat, working for editor Suzanne Daley on the “Way We Live Now” team. According to a memo from Times culture czar Sam Sifton, Kantor offered the following explanation for her job switch: “After a couple of years in the building, I’m dying to actually get out and report some stories myself.”

Guild goodbye

Christopher C. Wilson has departed as exec director of the Dramatist Guild of America, a position he has held for nine years. A guild release states, “The change was made effective after the expiration of Mr. Wilson’s contract, in a decision mutually arrived at by the guild’s governing council.”

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