Ordinarily, when a performer comes into a show, cuts it nearly in half, guts a familiar score and much of its moral, collapses the characters so that the role of the lead character has even more to do while the rest of the cast has less to do, he would be accused of inflated ego and of having complete disrespect for the original work. But if that performer is Tommy Tune and the work is “Dr. Dolittle” (even the title has been shortened from its original “Doctor”), that is another story. The most surprising thing is that composer and lyricist Leslie Bricusse, who is ordinarily extraordinarily protective of his works, allowed this truncated—though perhaps “streamlined” is a more polite word—ninety-minute version of the show to happen at all. But hey, this is “Dr. Dolittle,” not Shakespeare, and the truth is that much of what is missing and which often slowed down this show in earlier incarnations is unlikely to be missed except by the most diehard Dolittlarians, and the compensation of having the still remarkably spry and charismatic Tune dance and sing his way along as a kindler, gentler and generally less Anglophile doctor who really knows how to connect with and inspire his fellow performers as well as the show’s multi-generational audience is more than enough, helped along by spectacular effects and animal characterizations with souls. When Tune flies away at the end to the moon on a lunar moth in a sea of stars, he waves and says “goodbye,” and there isn’t a kid in the theater who did not appear to be waving back with a tear, so much has Tune completely redefined a familiar character as his own. (Dennis Polkow)
Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, (312)902-1400. Through July 30.