Review: DOG MAN: THE MUSICAL at Kirk Douglas Theatre

Hit family musical about the epic adventures of a canine-human hybrid hero runs through January 7th

By: Dec. 09, 2023
Review: DOG MAN: THE MUSICAL at Kirk Douglas Theatre
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Dog Man: The Musical is a fun, goofy musical romp running through January 7th at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. This bright, happy show is almost solely aimed at children, and what a wonderful thing that is.  At any given time, there are not that many films playing, or shows running, aimed at children, sometimes almost none.  I praise Center Theatre Group for thinking about the needs of their younger audiences and for bringing this New York Times Critic’s Pick hit show to Los Angeles.  Even children who have not had the pleasure of exploring theatre before will find a cornucopia of accessible delights in Dog Man. 

Review: DOG MAN: THE MUSICAL at Kirk Douglas Theatre
 Chada Nichol, Bryan Daniel Porter,
and L.R. Davidson star in
Dog Man: The Musical​​​​​

Great direction by director and choreographer Jen Wineman keeps the colorful musical moving along briskly for 90 minutes, and her choreography is delightful, lively and light-on-its-feet.  Producer NYC-based TheaterWorksUSA creates acclaimed theatre for children, schools, and families, often bringing beloved books to vibrant life, aiming to foster a love of reading and a love of theatre and the arts.  Dog Man: The Musical reflects their mission perfectly, with excellent work from artistic director Barbara Pasternack. On the night I attended this hit show, the Kirk Douglas Theatre was sold out and packed with enthusiastic family audiences who cannot get enough of their favorite canine-human hybrid hero.

Author Dav Pilkey grew up considered a disruptive kid with ADHD and dyslexia, who often spent his time in school banished from the classroom, creating his own comic book adventures.  I am only the slightest bit acquainted with his worldwide bestselling book series Captain Underpants and Dog Man, but this presented no impediment to watching and enjoying the musical based on his Dog Man books.  Emmy Award-winning writer Kevin Del Aguila compellingly and cleverly adapted this material for the stage.  Although there is a sprinkling of references to Dickens, other musicals, superheroes and so on, this is not the kind of Pixar or Studio Ghibli entertainment that can be enjoyed on multiple levels, offering profound richness of theme or bittersweet beauty.  Dog Man is pure, silly, intentionally stupid and puerile entertainment. 

Review: DOG MAN: THE MUSICAL at Kirk Douglas Theatre
Chada Nichol and Marcus Phillips star
in Dog Man: The Musical at Kirk Douglas Theatre

Adults who like stories of supervillain and hero pets, epic acton, silliness, and potty jokes may also enjoy the high-spirited, goofy, boyish shenanigans of the show.  The children in the audience were absolutely ecstatic, jumping out and down, cheering, laughing, spontaneously dancing in their seats at the big dance numbers.  Dog Man is the show I’ve seen that has most delighted and entertained its younger audience.   

The story is slight and silly, with a crime-fighting main character who is part man, part dog, and ALL HERO.  Unable to talk, he expresses himself with rich physicality and goofy vocalizations, rubbing himself enthusiastically on dead fish and constantly getting distracted, earning the adoration of all the children in the audience, who cheered him on. It’s a charming and whole-hearted performance from Brian Owen.  In fact, the performances in the show are spectacular from everyone, with superlative casting from Michael Donovan Casting.  For me as an adult watching Dog Man, it is these creative, energetic, quirky, hilarious performances from inventive and extremely talented actors that really make the show.

Review: DOG MAN: THE MUSICAL at Kirk Douglas Theatre
Brian Owen (center) and cast of Dog Man

Song and dance numbers are fun, bright, and high energy, with especially great singing from evil supervillain cat Bryan Daniel Porter (an incredible star performance from Porter across the board, really), and funky, expressive, delightful dancing from turbo-charged, mastermind cyborg fish Chadaé Nichol (another star performance that really sparkles with humor, quirk, and depth).  The music by Brad Alexander is not particularly tuneful or memorable.  This is something that I find all too common in modern musicals, and a feature that makes me pine for the great era of midcentury musicals with hummable and extraordinary iconic songs and lavish, distinctive musical themes.  But Dog Man songs can be a lot of fun, especially with this cast. 

Review: DOG MAN: THE MUSICAL at Kirk Douglas Theatre
L.R. Davidson and Bryan Daniel Porter 
star in Dog Man: The Musical

Marcus Phillips is the heart of the show, bringing warmth, great comedic timing, and essential charisma and likability to the lead role, and all the ensemble roles he plays.  He has great chemistry with Joe Balanza, who is also a delight and really shines as a mad scientist.  L.R. Davidson perfectly captures the annoying persistence and ineffable sweetness of a young child in her role as the clone of the evil supervillain cat, and her song “Happysong” was a highlight of Dog Man for me.  Davidson brings some real poignancy to the show.

The stage, props and costumes are painted with a crayon box of bright primary colors, sunny, rich and bold.  Everything is charming, and whimsical, looking adorably homemade and child-crafted, with the feeling that the whole production came out of a mix-matched craft set.  I particularly was charmed by the inventive, adorable, expressive puppets.  The entire visual design by Timothy R. Mackabee is marvelously creative at keeping the child-scrawl, sketched, graphic novel feel, like the books spontaneously burst to life in three dimensions.

Review: DOG MAN: THE MUSICAL at Kirk Douglas Theatre
Chadaé Nichol (center) and cast of Dog Man

The Kirk Douglas Theatre is a fabulous place to see Dog Man, with comfortable seats, perfect acoustics, and generous seating in the lobby if you arrive early.  There is paid street parking, which I didn’t feel brave enough to try to find, or validated parking at City Hall across the street (there is a validation machine in the lobby, on the way to the restrooms).  The Kirk Douglas Theatre is located in the heart of downtown Culver City, which has no shortage of places to eat, drink, or take in a bit of tea or coffee before or after the show, all within walking distance.  I found myself wandering after the show to the late night delights of Monty’s Good Burger, where an oat milk strawberry shake or a 50/50 fries and tots basket pretty much makes the evening perfect.

Photos by Craig Schwartz Photography

Dog Man: The Musical runs through January 7th.  Kirk Douglas Theatre is located at 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232.  You can get tickets by calling (213) 628-2772 or clicking the button below:


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