The musical, which premiered at the Orpheum Theatre on Oct. 13 makes humans looks larger than life as they dance on mini-stilts wearing exaggerated clothing. And the scenery and furniture is built to make the dogs appear a few heads below the humans, really adding perspective to a dog’s life. But Pongo and Missus still walk their owners, lick their faces to keep them clean and wake them every morning.
Much of the first act chronicles Pongo and Missus while their lives change, as the couple becomes first-time parents. They’re anxious, excited, elated and overprotective. As they should be when Cruella De Vil, played by Rachel York, looms in the neighborhood. York’s facial expressions and movements emphasize her power, and the fear she adds with every entrance.
So when the pups go missing the parents send out a call to all dogs. Then after a tip from a dog three moonlights away, they’re off to the rescue. And the modes used to show their travels are creative. A map tracks their trip while a scene similar to a puppet show with stick figurines shows the chase scenes.
Some of the jokes are a little silly, but the characters nail what life could be like for a dog as they bark, bite and become mesmerized by the site of food.
Product placement at the beginning of the second act may be frustrating for some in the audience, but the kids will still love man’s best friend.
And for the finale of each act, expect appearances from the real dogs.
The musical is based of Dodie Smith’s 1957 novel, and the creative teams includes director Jerry Zaks, co-lyricist B.T. McNicholl and Dennis DeYoung, founding member of the band Styx. It also includes 15 dogs trained by Joel Slaven who has worked on films including “Ace Ventura Pet Detective” and “That Darn Cat.”
With the pups, songs and storyline, it’s a show the kids will cherish.