Book by BT McNicholl
Music by Dennis DeYoung
Lyrics by Dennis DeYoung & BT McNicholl
Directed by Jerry Zak
Choreography by Warren Carlyle
Music Direction by Don York
Produced by Broadway in Chicago
At the Cadillac Palace Theatre
Seeing 101 Dalmatians make me think Broadway musicals are going to the dogs!
First let me state that the national tour of The 101 Dalmatians, which originated in Minneapolis in October of 2009, is NOT a Disney production. Too bad because the Disney folks are know for their high production standards which are sorely lacking in Magic Arts & Entertainment’s production that opened at the Palace Theatre on February 17, 20110 for a two week run.
You know a show is in trouble when the high points of a show are the two short scenes that find the real Dalmatians running across the stage and performing dog tricks!
Filled with humans on stilts, shallow voices from Pongo (James Ludwig) and his doggie wife, Missus (Catia Ojeda), a screeching evil diva-Cruella De Vil (the miscast Sara Gettelfinger) and a cast of mostly irritating players sporting terrible British/Scottish accents-The 101 Dalmatians unfolds as a noisy, crass commercial vehicle not ready for a national tour. The only redeeming work came from the nine children who deftly danced and sang their hearts out as Dalmatians giving some life to a show that barely made a growl.
With a cheap cartoonish set and a score (by Dennis DeYoung) filled with a derivative pastiche of pop/rock anthems that sounded like ABBA and 80’s disco with reggae, pseudo-vaudeville and sound-like Broadway standards-The 101 Dalmatians come off as a by-the-numbers crude commercial vehicle sorely lacking in original musical concepts .
The singing was more like screaming rendering much of the lyrics unintelligible, especially from Sara Gettelfinger as Cruella De Vil–she comes across as more irritating then pure evil. There were many children at the opening night performance and they seemed bored and restless. This show is NOT a children’s show especially with a 2 hour and 30 minute running time. The show, among other things, lacks charm–and a sense of goodness that gets kids to relate. They only reacted when the real dogs race across the stage. The 101 Dalmatians has no heart as it can’t make up its mind if it is trying to be an adult show or a children’s show. Neither the kids nor the parents really believed that Cruella would harm the dogs.
In my view, it is simply an over produced gimmicky mediocre musical with a forgettable score and little to cheer for. Possibly, a 75 minute kids show could be made from this material if gigantic cuts are made. It needs a infusion of charm and heart–and clarity. More use of the dogs couldn’t hurt. As it plays now there is little bark or bite with more groaning than growling. And at $85 a ticket for the main floor, it is a strain for families.
At the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL, call 800-775-2000, www.broadwayinchicago.com, Tuesdays thru Saturdays with Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees, tickets $18 – $85, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through February 28, 2010