Peggy Sue Dunigan
Dogpark

The Musical

By - Jan 14th, 2009 02:52 pm
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It’s yuppy hour! This sums up the first 2009 selection in The Rep’s Stackner Cabaret, Dogpark: The Musical. The tag line drolly reflects the production written by Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner, a husband and wife team, and Michael J. Hume. The night is spent ascertaining the love lives of “two-legged” canines in this premiere offering from the writers who brought They Came from Way Out There to the venue in 2007.

In this new collaboration from Beecham, Hillgartner and Hume, four personable dogs longingly search for their soul mate (or pup and paw mate) at the neighborhood dogpark: Champ, Bogie, Itchy and the leading lady to these tramps, Daisy, who effortlessly steals a dog’s heart and an ample portion of the show in her white plush skirt and platinum head of hair.

Without the gifted talent and comedic aptitude displayed by all the performers, the musical could easily slip into a series of one liners and puns poking fun at man’s best friend. Yet Lenny Bonavez, Chip Duford, Jonathon Spivey and the lovely Katherine Strohmaier elevate the story line to humorous performance art, rather than merely a melodic discussion of a dog’s life. Whether dressed in costumes and hats trimmed in fur (especially Bonavez wearing poodle fuzz), singing with the hand puppet trio created to stand in as Daisy’s back-up singers, or dancing to Suzanne Seiber’s inventive choreography, each canine character comes alive on stage to the audience’s delight.

Strohmaier, who recently graced the stage of the Pabst Theatre in A Christmas Carol, enlightens the production through both song and dance, a fitting feminine counter part for these three stooges of male dogs. Her stage presence dominates but doesn’t overwhelm the other actors, each giving their dogged personifications bright sparks (along with literal barks) of humanity.

The plotline’s twists and turns in this particular dogpark become immaterial. When the musical showcases songs titled “Dogs in Heat” and “Deep Dog Doo Wop” performed by these expert actors, sit back and sip a drink in the Stackner Cabaret while laughing¾ enjoying the sheer entertainment of DOGPARK: The Musical, completely believing when Daisy says to Bogie, “You had me at woof.”

The Milwaukee Repertory Theater presents DOGPARK: The Musical in the Stackner Cabaret until March 1. For information and tickets: 414.224.9480 or at milwaukeerep.com.

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