“Dogs” is the hyperactive puppy of camp musicals

“OK, I’m going to eat grass until I throw up.”

In the dog days of 1987, Sparky hangs out with lower-class mutts, enjoying mindless canine consumerism. They eat garbage. They mark fire hydrants. They chase tail, literally.

While attending a rally (in hopes of meeting girls), Sparky learns that a fat cat outsider and his Nazi pals are trying to legislate their opponents’ genitals. Specifically, they want to neuter all mixed-breed males. Can Sparky save his friends from a fate worse than death?!

Camp musicals are notoriously tricky to launch. The audience doesn’t yet know whether to laugh, take it seriously or groan along. The first act in particular suffers as we struggle to identify over a dozen characters. (It doesn’t help that the villains, called Muttzis, are anti-mutt.)

tda-dogs

THEATREdART clearly invested in this production. Dr. Mengalab’s bacon-based torture device—complete with scent pumped into the crowd—looks cheap yet intricate, as great camp must. The class-based costumes feel very John Hughes. A local director sitting next to me noted that this was the most sophisticated lighting he’d seen at Cottonwood.

Even when the pun-heavy script gets ruff, the actors commit wholeheartedly to the concept. They sniff each other. They rub up against things (and people). Danine Schell belts out a mournful elegy for her neutered anatomy.

Like a new puppy, “Dogs the Musical” is cute, enthusiastic and all over the place. But if you get down to its level, you can have a lot of fun.

Additional Notes:
While you probably won’t be singing these songs at karaoke, composer Ariel Baty makes clever use of reprises.

Best performance goes to Erick Groskopf for his hypocritical German underling. Malevolent, ridiculous, yet surprisingly layered.

The actors freely switch between two legs and four. If you sit in the back, you’ll miss a few scenes.

“Dogs the Musical” jokes about castration, urination, female dogs, eugenics and Mormons. They rate themselves Pug-13.

Presented by THEATREdART
September 15 – October 1, 2017

David H. Lord Theater at
Cottonwood Center for the Arts
427 E Colorado Ave

Admission: Pay what you can
Running Time: 2 hours

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