Writer: Dodie Smith
Adaptor: Brynony Lavery
Director: Dale Rooks
Composer: Matthew Scott
Reviewer: Rosanna Sloan
The much loved Disney film, The Hundred and One Dalmatians, is brought to life on stage by Chichester Youth Theatre, with over 120 people in the cast. It tells the story of villain Cruella De Vil and her dastardly plot to turn the Dearly’s puppies from cute Dalmatians into warm coats.
Directed by Dale Rooks, this is an ambitious and well executed production, which once again provides a wonderful opportunity for Chichester Youth Theatre members to be involved in a yearly Christmas production of such professional scale. There is no hint of the word amateur about this show, the cast perform and behave like young professionals, with the lead cast supporting the younger ensemble through the production with care.
In this new adaptation by renowned playwright Bryony Lavery, adapted from Dodie Smith’s novel, this Disney favourite is translated well to stage considering that the cast are mainly animals, which is no easy task to pull off well. Adopting a well thought out convention of only speaking ‘dog’ when the humans are listening, and turning the owner/pet relationship on its head, as the dogs believe they walk their owners, the cast are strong together giving a thoroughly entertaining performance. This production really demonstrates the amount of time, love and dedication that has gone into creating a performance of this size and of this quality, from the creative team, but notably from the young cast.
Cruella De Vil is a horribly brilliant villain, with the actress taking on this famous character with real flair, fully embodying, and enjoying, the rôle and the ‘boos’ that come with it. Missis and Pongo carry the audience through the story well, keeping the show alive and full of energy and so encouraging the ensemble to follow their lead. There are some wonderful characters that make short appearances through the productions, such as the Cow, Sheep, and The Colonel, all of which make a wonderful impression on the audience, a true testament to the mantra that there are no small parts.
The songs within the play are at times lacking in imaginative lyrics, and rather than establishing a linking refrain or repeating an enforcing chorus, they can be simply repetitive with some of the songs not adding enough in terms of narrative to the production. However the ensemble sing the songs well and the many solo parts provide ample opportunity to show off the lovely voices within the company. One song in particular stands out- the rap that allows each of Missis and Pongo’s 15 pups to introduce themselves, as well as being an entertaining song this tune gives the younger members of the cast a great opportunity to work together while still getting their moment in the spotlight.
The set designed by Andrew Edwards is playful, striking and gives the audience lots of little surprises along the way, including the unveiling of Cruella’s car. This production also welcomes back ex-Youth Theatre members in technical rôles, which is a fantastic way of getting more young people involved in this production and providing quality opportunities for skills development.
A lot of work has gone into this production and Dale Rooks has expertly pulled together all the elements with a cast of such epic size. The length of this run and the sheer amount of performances is astonishing, another indication that the cast of The Hundred and One Dalmatians have displayed such dedication and professionalism in bringing this production to the stage. I hope to see many of the faces that have shined in this production come back and shine in professional productions in the future at Chichester.
Runs until the 3rd January.