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BARK! The Musical at C venue at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe

BARK! The MusicalI wonder what the late director and choreographer Dame Gillian Lynne would have made of BARK! The Musical subtitled How The Little Dog Found His Voice. Part of her acclaimed work on the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats was to make four-legged creatures played by actors to actually look like they were cats, although the costume designs helped in this regard as well. But the characters in this production, all of whom are talking (and dancing, and singing) dogs move around, for the most part, as though they are human. They certainly don’t pant enough, particularly given for the balmy conditions in the auditorium at the performance I attended. There’s a counter-argument. Dogs are said to look like their owners anyway, and actual panting would be a bit of a distraction from the dialogue.

Things start off with joy and exuberance, and the blessed relief and excitement the dogs feel now they are in the park is palpable. There’s a fair amount of highly credible detail about how some of them are cooped up indoors all day while their owners are out to work. I can indirectly relate to that – there used to be a dog who lived a couple of doors away from me that used to stand at the living room window looking very forlorn whenever I walked past in the morning, as though it wasn’t fair that I get to go out while the said canine must stay in without company. As far as this production goes, the story is inconsistent: how do all these dogs get to the park if they are stuck at home all day?

Anyway, Rocks (Dale Adams) has never been to the park before and, for whatever reason, has the kind of apprehension a child might have on the first day of school. He doesn’t yet have a bark, but King (Brian James Leys) encourages him to get one, and soon, because he can’t live his life without such a vital defence mechanism. Golda (Laura Hyde) is more stoic – from her experience, a dog’s bark will naturally develop as and when the need arises.

Some of the musical numbers are, to be blunt, too repetitive, even if they are good tunes and easy on the ear. Elements of the storyline were rather too risqué for some of the younger members of the audience – King sings about how attracted he is to Lassie, the dog in the television series of the same name. Later, he recounts the time he was neutered, with a few too many details. Then there’s Sam (Andrew Doyle) – whom I don’t recall ever being called Sam (or any other name) in the show, but I shall keep faith with the show’s programme – who takes off more clothes than is strictly necessary.

There is also Boo (Jalisa Andrews) and Chanel (Emily Chesterton), a cocker spaniel and a French poodle respectively. The former has one of those very, very friendly personalities, while the latter seems more concerned with keeping up appearances. The plotline is, ultimately, rather flimsy. The cast are enthusiastic, however, and the songs as a whole are an assortment of different styles, encompassing everything from opera to gospel music. One for the dog lovers – everyone else can take it or leave it.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

BARK! is a fast-paced, energetic and sometimes poignant tale of a young Jack Russell pup searching to find his bark with the help of his 5 eccentric friends. A stunning musical homage to dogs and their intrepidly “human hearts” – lonely, hungry, horny, and howlingly funny, BARK! has wagged the tails of audiences and critics alike. Bring a biscuit and a handkerchief and get ready to fall in love!

Told and sung entirely from the dogs’ point of view by an all-human cast with songs in a rich variety of musical styles from opera, salsa, Broadway, blues and rap to big-band, BARK! is tail-waggin’, cat-hatin’, face-lickin’ fun for all the family.

With Book and Lyrics by Gavin Geoffrey Dillard, Robert Schrock, Mark Winkler and Music by David Troy Francis, BARK! has received rave reviews including Critics’ Choice from the Los Angeles Times and Critics’ Pick from the Chicago Tribune.

Jalisa Andrews (who plays Boo, a Cocker Spaniel) was Chichi in The Life (Southwark Playhouse) and appeared in Nativity the Musical

Emily Chesterton (Chanel, a French Poodle) was in The Kissing Dance (Ye Olde Rose and Crown) and Closer Than Ever (The Pheasantry)

Andrew Doyle (Sam, a Pit Bull Mutt) toured Australia in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and was in In The Heights and Parade in Melbourne

Laura Hyde (Golde, a Pug) was in Metropolis (Ye Old Rose and Crown) and Devilish (Landor Theatre)

Brian James Leys (King, a Labrador Retriever) his West End roles include The Lion King and Motown the Musical

Dale Adams (Rocks, an energetic, eager Jack Russell puppy) was Frankie Valli in Walk Like A Man (UK tour) and Steve in Adam & Eve… and Steve (King’s Head Theatre).

Credits:
Book and lyrics by: Gavin Geoffrey Dillard,
Robert Schrock, Mark Winkler
Music by: David Troy Francis
Produced by: Barbara H. Freitag, Elva Corrie,
David Troy Francis, Michael Boustead
Director/Choreographer: Francesca Goodridge

Set & Costume Designer Maeve Black
Lighting Designer Richard Williamson
Sound Designer Chantelle Dobbs
Stage Manager Helen Burdett

Twitter: @BARKTheMusical
Facebook: BarkTheMusical

BARK! The Musical
Edinburgh Fringe 2018
1-27 Aug (not 13)
C, venue 34
Chambers Street
Edinburgh, EH1 1HR
Performances: 17:25 hours (1hr15)

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