Fine-tuning ‘Dolittle’ show

Legendary songman makes housecall for 'Dr.'

Tommy Tune is poised to overhaul the failed touring production of the tuner “Dr. Dolittle,” with the multihyphenate directing, choreographing and starring.

Chatter of Tune’s attachment to the project has been in the air for weeks now, and Daily Variety has learned that Dee Hoty, who was directed by Tune in “The Will Rogers Follies” and “The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public,” has been offered the production’s co-starring role. Tune’s agent was unavailable for comment, and a rep for the tour was also mum.

If Tune’s retooling proves successful, it could pave the way for his first major foray on Broadway since “Whorehouse Goes Public” flopped in 1994. (He also served as a supervisor on the revival of “Grease,” which opened the same year and lasted through 1998.)

Before that, Tune had been one of the Rialto’s golden boys, with such hits as “Nine” and “Grand Hotel” under his belt. His status as a canny show doctor was cemented with “My One and Only,” which he rescued out of town and led to a nearly two-year Broadway run in 1983.

Co-produced by Nederlander Presentations, the $3 million “Dr. Dolittle” had been booked through summer 2006, but it shuttered abruptly Oct. 2 due to weak sales. Plan now is to aim for a late November restart in Seattle, with some roles recast due to Tune’s increased emphasis on dance.

It’s not yet clear whether that plan would conflict with the Actors’ Equity rule stating that a production, once closed, must wait six weeks before reopening for rehearsals or performances. A spokeswoman for Equity would say only, “We are in negotiations on the subject.”

An internal letter from Equity obtained by Daily Variety states, “We are still in negotiations with the producer about the possible reopening of ‘Dr. Dolittle.’ Equity’s current position includes a four-week buyout for anyone not offered a role in the revised staging and unemployment insurance, whether the actor receives an offer or not.”

Tom Hewitt, the former star of “Dr. Dolittle,” would not return. Insiders said Hewitt was fired from the show — which is happy news for him, since it requires the producers to buy out his contract. Hewitt’s agent had no comment.

The Nederlanders will likely pony up any additional capital, so that none of the road houses will be required to contribute.

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