Wednesday night I ventured to the historic Cadillac Theatre to partake in some four legged fun at the 101 Dalmatians Musical (I promise I will keep the dog puns/terminology to a bare minimum in this review). Filled with cartoonish-like sets, actors playing humans on stilts and likable songs from Dennis DeYoung (who is one of the founding members of STYX ), 101 Dalmatians the Musical has a certain charm that I can not deny. The story is about the power of family and proves to be a real treat for the young and the young at heart.
Like many of the newer productions hitting Broadway, 101 Dalmatians caters to the children in the audience. Regardless, the show tries to incorporate some more adult oriented lines to stimulate the adults in the audience. Unfortunately these lines are rather low brow and barely register a laugh. At least they tried to throw ‘em a bone. The show, in my opinion, is not of the same caliber of heavy hitting musicals but is still fun none-the-less. The kids in attendance seemed to love every minute of the show which is priceless in its own right.
I have to confess, my interest in this show peaked after I read a blurb about a mix of show and shelter dogs being used in the performance. The live dogs do not disappoint. Their very presence onstage was warmly received and, like most of the crowd, I left wanting to adopt them all.
I’ve read plenty of reviews of this show and am frankly kind of surprised by how poorly it is being received. I agree Cruela de Vil, aptly played by Sara Gettlefinger, should have been a meatier role. I don't think anyone thought, even for a minute, the puppies were in any real danger of being turned into fashion. I also thought the dalmatian costumes were pretty amateurish. Most of the accolade goes to the live dogs and the child actors playing the pups (and rightfully so) but I think it is important to weigh the play for what it is. For lack of a better term, this is a B-musical but it's still entertaining.
This production is the non-Disney interpretation of the book, "101 Dalmatians," by Dodie Smith. Like the book, the production is meant to be seen through the eyes of the dog. Director Jerry Zaks tried to do his best to stick to that vision which has led to mixed reviews. I, for one, thought it was clever to have the actors playing humans use stilts to effectively differentiate them from the actors playing dogs.
If you have young children and they have never seen a theatre production, this would be a great first show for them to see. The production is only in town for a two-week engagement and will continue their cross country tour after their final local performance February 28th. Tickets range from $18-$85. For more information, check out www.broadwayinchicago.com or call (800) 775-2000.