101 Dalmatians ★★★★ Regent's Park Open Air Theatre | Jul 12 - Aug 28, 2022

Who doesn't love a puppy? Well, Cruella de Vil for one! Her outrageous plot to make a Dalmatian puppy coat for the black and white ball is hilariously terrifying. She is the meanest villain you're likely to come across, and Kate Fleetwood puts in a wonderfully over-the-top performance. In this version, Cruella is an influencer and she both creates and rides the internet's delight in the sensational, even when it is vicious, false and pandering to prejudice. There's a message here for an adult audience even as children will simply enjoy the adventure of the puppies' triumphs and tribulations. Douglas Hodge has produced some familiar-feeling music and some clever lyrics for this version of story, but unfortunately we had some difficulty hearing them on the evening we attended. Still, such production numbers as "I Can Smell Puppy" and "Two Bad Criminals" were definite highlights. George Bukhari as Jasper had some great one liners, and he and Jonny Weldon as Casper were the perfect foils for Fleetwood's Cruella. As always, Toby Olié's puppets were completely captivating, and we loved the banter and interactions between Danny Collins' Pongo and Emma Lucia's Perdi. The story of 101 Dalmatians is rather thin, but it is perfect for a younger audience, and Hodge's lyrics and Johnny McKnight's book have added a gloss that should hold the adults' interest as well. This is a summer night in the park that the whole family will enjoy.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Mark Senior.

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