BWW Review: DISNEY'S 101 DALMATIONS Barks Up the Right Tree at Stages St. Louis
It's puppies, puppies everywhere-even in the audience!-as families and young friends are brought into an interactive version of the Stages St. Louis Emerson Family Series production of Disney's 101 Dalmatians, playing now through June 30 at Robert G. Reim Theater.
This show opens on the iconic black, red, and white Disney 101 Dalmatians logo at center stage, when two small doors pop open to reveal our storytellers, Roger (Eric Michael Parker) and Anita (Larissa White). As the stage fills with active little spotted pups, we learn that Roger and Anita's dogs Pongo (Drew Humphrey) and Perdita (Dena DiGiacinto) are the new parents. The problem is that the family's not-so-friendly neighbor, the enchanting villain Cruella de Vil (Tyler Jent) has every kind of fur coat. Except Dalmatian. And guess what she wants next?
Cruella offers Roger and Anita more and more money, but when Roger and Anita refuse to sell the litter to her, Cruella and her silly henchmen, Horace (Joshua Roach) and Jasper (Ryan Cooper), devise a humorous plan to kidnap the puppies. And while Anita is out walking Pongo and Perdita, they implement the plan. Luckily for the puppies, Pongo and Perdita use the "Twilight Bark," which is a house-pet news grapevine, to spread the dog alert that the pups are missing. Cruella will stop at nothing-not even bats, boulders, and boomerangs-for a spotted coat, matching muffler, and boots! As Cruella sings to the audience about the beautiful coat she plans to design using the fur of the Dalmatian pups (yes, that is quite dark, but the show is not scary), Sergeant Tibbs (a feline) is on the job and makes the daring rescue. In the end, the pups are happily reunited with Pongo, Perdita, Roger, and Anita.
This is a fun (and short for kids!) show. It is a perfect diversion on a summer afternoon, with clever costumes by Brad Musgrove that feature recognizable favorite dog breeds. There's also fun direction and choreography by Peggy Taphorn (I particularly enjoyed the smart-stepping Scottie dogs and watching the tiny-stepping, nervous Chihuahuas. Oh, and who doesn't love a puppy kickline?!). The costumes are super-cute too, with collars and dog tags that individualize each puppy in the litter. The entire cast, including all the woofing pups, is interconnected and fun to watch, but Jent is fabulous darling, and has the lovable villain down to an artform. By the end of the show, everyone is yapping and howling with delight.
Disney's 101 Dalmatians lyrics are by Mel Leven, Randy Rogel, Richard Gibbs, Brian Smith, Martin Lee Fuller, and Dan Root. The book is adapted with additional lyrics by March Heisler with music adapted and arranged by Bryan Louiselle, based on the screenplay by Bill Peet. For more information and tickets, https://www.stagesstlouis.org/Home/Shows/Disney-101-Dalmatians/