I just spent an afternoon among tutus and tiaras at a matinee of “The 101 Dalmatians Musical” at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
As expected, the show was upbeat, cute, clearly a winner among the Disney Princesses in the audience. A coworker who saw it on opening night said her 7-year-old daughter was “glued to the performance, sometimes with mouth wide open.” Field Trips with Sue liked it, too!
As expected, Rachel York was the kind of Cruella De Vil who elicits applause just be stepping on stage. (Because the show was told from the point-of-view of a “dog,” she and the other human characters wear stilts. They earn applause just for staying upright on stage.)
And as expected, nobody is a bigger star than a real dog who pretends to pee on stage in order to make flowers bloom. It doesn’t matter at all that he got the trick wrong on his first try — the audience was cheering for him.
AJC videographer Ryon Horne and I headed up to Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre this week to meet the 15 dogs who appears in the stage show. I had already interviewed dog trainer Joel Slaven, who described what their lives are like on the road — lots of play time, and a few minutes on stage.
We saw the “Puppy Palace,” with smaller bunks for humans than for dogs. We saw their play yards, where they were busy cuddling and licking each other, at least until we approached and set off a chorus of barking.
You could see the jealousy in their eyes when trainer leashed up Jada and brought her out to meet us. She was a stray in the care of Second Chances Dalmatian Rescue in Ohio when trainers found her on their national search for performing pups. She was healthy, but a little aggressive and not so sure about all these, you know, people.
Watch this and you’ll see that she’s changed a lot:
A few hot dogs, a peanut butter biscuit and a tennis ball later — toys are especially important to her — she’s one of the show’s stars. Her silhouette appears in the show’s intro. At one point, she runs across the stage. For that, she gets a treat and the audience has a reason to applaud. This NBC video shows more of their stage tricks and rehearsal space, too.
It’s not easy to work with rescued dogs. Trainers explained that they’re still learning things about these dogs and their pasts. One has a skin condition that flared up recently. Another gets nervous whenever someone pulls out a broom. Some of them just want to run and work and learn all the time. Some just like to snuggle. Some are still a little nervous for the stage.
But as expected, they are all adorable.
So now I’ve got to head home, hug my dogs and remind myself that we don’t need another one.
Want to go? “The 101 Dalmatians Musical.” Through Nov. 1. $15-$58. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. 770-916-2800, www.cobbenergycentre.com.