Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spotty at Best, but Fine for the Pups

Theater Review

The 101 Dalmatians Musical
Cadillac Palace Theatre, Chicago

Theoretically, I have no real problem with musicals overtly aimed at family audiences. I think "Broadway" is an art form that children can enjoy and I appreciate, in moderation, shows that make an attempt to indoctrinate them.

In fact, I have found the best "kid-friendly" musicals--particularly the Disney stage productions of The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins, as well as Seussical The Musical--to be rich enough in imagination and quality to appeal to children of all ages, from 4 to 105. But while I believe that this version of 101 Dalmations--not a Disney production--was probably a lot of fun for those under 10, it wasn't so great for the rest of us. (If you're wondering why I went, it was part of my Broadway in Chicago subscription)

The music and most of the lyrics were written by Dennis DeYoung, of Styx fame, and while there were a few nice pieces that I hope the kids enjoyed, most of it was saccharin enough to make DeYoung's old Styx schmaltzer, Babe, seem Dylanesque in comparison. And while Broadway veteran Sara Gettelfinger--assuming the Cruella De Vil role in Chicago after Rachel York abruptly left the tour--was quite solid, the rest of the cast of humans (including many children) dressed as dalmatians was cute, but far from invigorating.

So if you have kids aged in the single digits and are looking for a show they might enjoy, this really isn't a bad choice; for those from about 4-to-7, this might even be a better bet than the fantastic yet sometimes scary Lion King (coming back to Chicago in the fall). But otherwise, The 101 Dalmatians Musical really isn't worth its time in the "spot"light.

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