Friday, October 16, 2009

The 101 Dalmatians Musical

Jess & I went to see the musical last night as it opened in Minneapolis this week. We sat in the "cheap seats" and I'm not sure whether I was out of breath from climbing four flights of stairs to the 2nd-from-the-back row of the balcony, or it's just that the air was thinner way up there. We joked that we should have brought along a bucket of dog hair to fling into the air so that hair could settle on the audience! The orpheum is a lovely old theater and the show appeared to be a sell out.

Although it was entertaining, I would have to say I was disappointed. From the media hype one expects that the Dalmatians play a relatively large part in the production but that is not the case at all. This production is based on Dodie Smith's book, so the adult dogs are Pongo, Missus Pongo, Perdita & Prince and they are people wearing spotted clothing - not dog suits but white tops & slacks randomly splashed with spots - and yes Prince & Perdita appeared to be liver. The "puppies" are kids who might have been 8 - 14. Cast members were dressed as other breeds, and the "poodles" and the "sheepdog" were pretty good but it was hard to recognize the others.

The songs were all original I believe and some were pretty catchy. The dancing was quite good and it was interesting to watch. The sets were clever and the staging nicely done especially at first, but later in the production the lighting seemed to be off and you could see the stagehands in the background moving things around. Have to admit that I got a little bored during the second half. The kids who had come to see Dalmatians sure did.

And the Dalmatians? In the beginning we saw the shadowy actics of a real Dal before we met the spotted cast. At the end of the first act we saw all the Dalmatians in stage for perhaps a minute. Some were sitting, a couple were dashing around the stage. We assumed we would see more of them during the second half, but that did not happen until the very end, when the Dearlys were in their new home and we saw the dogs playing around in the garden. We saw one dog at a time move across the stage, some of them doing clever things, some of them just dashing around. One did a semblance of weave poles which was cute but lasted perhaps 5 seconds. It was hard to tell what most were supposed to be doing and the whole segment lasted perhaps 2 minutes. That's all folks. Somehow with Purina as a sponsor I expected DOGS.

When the cast came out for a curtain call, I assumed we might see the Dals then, but nope, just the folks in spotted suits. The highlight was Cruella, who was definitely the star of the show. Her cat was well done too. Cruella could have studied under Glenn Close and put a lot into her performance. The kids loved her.

It was entertaining if you like musicals. If you don't enjoy musicals, DON'T go just to see the dogs. Hopefully, with experience the dogs will play a larger part in the show, but I suspect they are only meant to attract media attention (through the rescue dog thing) and make this look like a family show - but some of the adult humor (and it was funny) belies that.