The 101 Dalmatians Musical
Don't worry: This family spectacle isn't for the dogs...it's for the kids.
Mon Mar 22 2010
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5
Photographs: Joan Marcus
Some things we do for the children, like cutting the crusts off bread or sewing labels into their outerwear. While sitting through this stage adaptation of the popular canine tale isn't that much of a chore, it's not like watching The Lion King, either. Perhaps that's fitting, since this isn't a musicalization of the Disney movie of the same name; instead, it's based on Dodie Smith's 1956 children's book, which is similar in plot (drag queen-esque Cruella De Vil steals a litter of spotted puppies in order to turn them into fur coats), but this production is missing the House of Mouse's iconic visuals and the villainess's catchy theme song.
Expecting a Broadway-caliber show might sound doggone crazy, but it's not, considering the show's pedigree: Director Jerry Zaks has four Tonys on his mantel, composer Dennis DeYoung was a founding member of the popular rock band Styx, and Sara Gettelfinger, in high-camp mode as Cruella, is a Main Stem vet. But any hope of The 101 Dalmatians Musical being a new classic is killed by ill-conceived gimmicks (the human characters lumber about gracelessly on stilts to differentiate them from the petit performers playing the mutts); lame jokes ("I didn't realize you were Catholic" says a dog to the fertile mom and pup); campy and, at times, off-key performances (Catia Ojeda as Missus); and downright bad choices (having a white guy in dreadlocks sing the reggae-infused "Be a Little Big Braver").
But you know what? Young kids love it. The three in my company—ages four, seven and nine—bopped to the songs (Cruella's "Hot Like Me" and the aforementioned "Be a Little Big Braver" are particularly catchy), marveled at the colorful backdrops and costumes, and cackled at the lowbrow humor (especially evil cockney henchmen Jasper and Jinx). And the entire audience cooed at the climax, when a number of real-life Dalmatians (mostly rescues) performed a succession of stage tricks. (To be frank, they aren't very well trained, which only adds to the enjoyment.)
Although premium seats are pricey ($99!), the show is so broad in look and tone, it reads well even from the cheap seats. Plus, there are numerous discounts floating around, both on our site and at Broadwaybox.com. A few warnings: As with all kids' shows, you'll be inundated with outrageously expensive merch and snacks, and inexplicably, the venue doesn't have booster seats.—Raven Snook
The 101 Dalmatians Musical plays through Apr 18 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Tickets: $35-$99.