Playbill has news about a new 101 Dalmatians musical – not an adaptation of the classic animated Disney film – that will be touring the US:
James Ludwig, Catia Ojeda and Julie Foldesi will join Rachel York in the new touring show The 101 Dalmatians Musical…. Based on the 1956 classic story written by Dodie Smith, the new musical will feature… York as previously announced, will play evil Cruella de Vil, who plots to kidnap puppies for their fur…. Ludwig will play Pongo, “the Dalmatian patriarch who must lead the charge in rescuing his puppies”…. Ojeda will play Missus, wife to Pongo and loving mother of the Dalmatian puppies that Cruella de Vil has dognapped….
The 101 Dalmatians Musical is led by four-time Tony Award winning director Jerry Zaks… bookwriter and co-lyricist BT McNicholl… and composer and co-lyricist Dennis DeYoung, best known as the founding member of the legendary rock band STYX…. According to production notes, the show “…also stars fifteen real Dalmatians, many of which were rescued from animal shelters across the country, in a surprise grand finale that will leave audiences cheering.”
There’s an official website for the show too. So who’s running to buy tickets and who’s running for the hills?
I saw this on the Broadway Across America touring website and did a double take – I thought maybe it was a bit like that infamous Casper musical that Chita Rivera toured in. Chita is wonderful, but she certainly has few standards about what she’ll appear in. Rachel York could similarly be accused of slumming (I have no idea if the other names mentioned are famous stage stars or not) although this at least has a better creative team than Casper did which makes me a bit interested in the project, even if I have little hope for it.
I also love the book, although I love the Disney movie almost equally, even with the changes. I’m not really sure what elements from the book that aren’t in the movie would be suitable for a stage musical. Even though this has nothing to do with Disney, the cynic in me thinks it probably would never have happened without the hit movie and they’re depending on most families going because they loved the movie – and the only reason the page stresses it’s from the book is because the musical doesn’t have anything to do with Disney.
From the website: “Typically, stage productions present animals or exotic creatures using some form of puppetry (as in The Lion King) or dressing actors in animal costumes (Cats). But here, given that our premise is inside-out, we invert the equation: The animals are human and it is the humans that are exotic.”
So does this mean the people play the animals and some of the dogs cast play people? Or?
No, but I suppose the humans are going to be made to appear bigger than usual, which makes the humans playing dogs seems smaller than them and the real dogs smaller still. I understand the idea, I guess, but I have no idea how they’ll pull it off practically. All I can imagine is how in those old Tom and Jerry cartoons where the Tom would appear at the feet of the stereotypical “Mammy” character, but that kind of scale is more suited to a giant:people ratio and that kind of forced perspective clearly isn’t what they’re trying to achieve here – especially if we want to see Rachel York playing Cruella.
On the website, Jerry Zaks says: “We present the humans in a heightened form of dress and scale so as to appear larger than life – as they would seem from a dog’s point of view. (The Dalmatians will have) no ears, no paws – but, rather, a clever use of costumes in the black-and-white palette that will immediately set them apart from the human characters.”
I guess the point he’s trying to make is that the animals are going appear normal and the humans like cartoons, but the problem is that the “human” dogs will still appear ‘exotic’ if there are real dogs on the stage.