101 Dalmatians

As a dog lover/owner and also a self confessed musical theatre addict, I was very excited to be heading to The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham to combine two of my greatest loves with a trip to see 101 Dalmatians The Musical.  Was it last place at Crufts, or did it leave me begging for more?

I will start this review with a caveat that it's probably best written through the eyes of a child, as this show was by no means anything deep and meaningful, but full of silly jokes, funny routines and an almost Panto-esque vibe.  Needless to say, the kids in the audience lapped it up.

Playing the role of murderess villain Cruella De Vil is Kym Marsh, and I have to say, she was deliciously devilish.  Her ability to provide a wicked performance was met with pure delight from the packed auditorium.  From her first appearance dressed in the skin of a giraffe, and her first solo number 'Animal Lover', which I have to say is a complete ear worm, Marsh shone off the stage.  She bought a new level of fear to the many children in the audience, but thankfully, as we all know, she gets her comeuppance in the end!

Playing alongside Marsh as her hapless, but big hearted nephews Casper and Jasper were Charles Brunton and Danny Hendrix respectively.  With plenty of slapstick humour, very silly jokes and great stage presence, these two characters bought plenty of light relief to an otherwise very dark story.  

The ultimate stars of the show however, have to be the many four legged puppets who were masterfully handled by the very talented ensemble cast.  Our main canine friends Perdi (Emma Thornett) and Pongo (Linford Johnson) came to life throughout the show making us believe they were living and breathing companions.  This is down to the fantastic puppeteering by Thornett and Johnson who also provided some wonderful vocals throughout.  Puppet Designer Jimmy Grimes clearly had a strong vision for the many different varieties of dogs, and cats, and each one was designed with clear love and care.  Choreographer Lucy Hind also made the puppets front and centre with some inventive and eye catching routines.

The show contains many songs with music and lyrics by Douglas Hodge.  Now, none of these songs were complicated or challenging lyrically with many rhyming words pretty obvious as the lines were sung, however these added to the charm of the show which has a very childlike feel and is completely suitable for children of all ages.  When you have a song surrounding the very primal greeting between dogs (yes, I'm talking sniffing bottoms), then I think you can see the level we are working with!

The set, designed by David Woodhead offered up some impressive backdrops, firstly to the 'Puppy Love Dogs Home' where we first meet a multitude of dogs waiting for their forever homes, to the inside of Tom (Samuel Thomas) and Danielle's (Jessie Elland) home, into the local pub, aptly named 'The Hair of the Dog' where the song 'Contemplate The Criminal' provided more light relief, especially with one ensemble member bearing a strong resemblance to Boris Johnson and branding himself a criminal.  We also, of course entered the 'Haus of De Vil' where Cruella's wicked items of clothing were created.

The lighting by James Whiteside was used effectively, with the ability to lighten happier moments, but darken the very dark moments in Cruella's lair as she contemplates mass murder.  As I said before, a quite chilling storyline for children to comprehend, but there are enough light-hearted moments in this musical for little minds to escape to.

Whilst this show is not high brow in any way, and borders on the silly, there is no escaping the joy that it seemed to bring to the many younger audience members.  Also, I always find that it's a success if you go away singing at least one song from the show, I am an 'Animal Lover' after all!.

Now, there is one surprise left until the very end, but I won't spoilt that as you would be completely barking mad with me!  A show full of charm, silliness and furry friends, what's not to love!

This show was reviewed on the 2nd July 2024 at The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham where it runs until the 6th July 2024.  Tickets available here: 101 Dalmatians Tickets | The Alexandra, Birmingham in Birmingham | ATG Tickets

Review written by Emma Rowley


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