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Robert Tanitch reviews 101 Dalmatians at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, London

Postponed twice because of Covod, this new musical adaptation of Dodie Smith’s children’s classic finally arrives very fittingly at this particular theatre. Did you know that the dog owners in the 1956 novel actually lived in a house on the outer circle of Regent’s Park?

Music and lyrics are by actor Douglas Hodge. The book is by Johnny McKnight based on a play by Zinnie Harris. Many spectators (and not only children) come dressed in white clothes with black spots to identify with the Dalmatians.

Admittedly, it’s hard work for any adaptation of 101 Dalmatians to follow Walt Disney’s hugely popular 1961 blockbuster, so elegant in its animation, so pretty in its pastel colors and so witty in its parody of British war films .

Cruella de Vil is one of the great villains in fiction. It’s hard to follow Glen Close’s flamboyant performance. She was superbly dressed and coiffed in the 1991 action film. Do you remember her laugh?

Cruella is now a social media influencer. Kate Fleetwood is gifted a gorgeous fur coat with a very long train and a large buckle number.

Timothy Sheader’s production is loud, black and ugly to look at. It doesn’t have the doggie charm of the original. The plot is soberly gripping. The music is not unforgettable. The update is unnecessary.

The production is puppet-led. Toby Olié is the puppet designer and director. Pongo and Perdi, the two leading dog roles, have two actors for each role: one for the head, torso, and paws; the other for voice and hind legs. Danny Collins has a strong presence as a pongo.

For some adult audiences, the positioning between human and dog may, um, quite unintentionally, of course, appear a bit (how should I put it?) bestial. But then these are adults for you; small children, you hope, will not notice.

The pups, all 99, are just heads with no bodies. A car makes an amusing spectacle as it breaks apart before our eyes and its parts are carried away by the actors.

The performance that the audience audibly loved the most was a very short performance by a real dog, a little Dalmatian puppy.

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Robert Tanitch reviews 101 Dalmatians at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, London

Source link Robert Tanitch reviews 101 Dalmatians at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, London

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