Adults who came of age in the eighties are sure to recall Macgruff the crime dog. During late night television movies and Saturday morning cartoons , the 30 second public service announcement would create a scenario of suspicious activity. Our cartooned, trench coat cloaked canine would then instruct us how to keep safe, ending the spot with his famous tag line: “Take a bite out of crime.”
While’s there is no claim to support it, one wonders if Dav Pilkey drew inspiration from the Ad Council’s campaign. Some evidence can be found in his stage adaptation of his best selling children’s series Dog Man. The premise: An occupational mishap explosive has injured both a police officer and a dog. Thanks to a far-fetched (pun intended) procedure, surgeons reattach the dog’s head to the body of man. Thus, Dog Man (Brian Owen) a new crime fighting hero is born.
A typical good versus evil plot is hatched involving Petey (Jamie LaVerdiere), a cunning cat and his clone gone wrong protégé Li’l Petey (L.R. Davidson). A sassy bionic fish, Flippy (Crystal Sha’nae) also adds peril to the story.
Children’s theater can often cut corners and feel quite amateurish, but that’s not the case with Dog Man: The Musical. Director Jen Wiseman and the entire creative team have gone to great lengths to make this a sophisticated affair-aside from some juvenile butt sniffing from our leading hero.
Book writer and lyricist Kevin Del Aguila, who is currently stealing scenes a few blocks away in Broadway’s Some Like it Hot, has condensed the series into a bright and brisk 80 minutes. Composer Brad Alexander has paired them with infectious melodies. Wineman’s cast is comprised primarily of stage veterans who navigate the material with great fun, enthusiasm, and gobs of talent.
Timothy R. Mackabee’s set, along with Heidi Leigh Hanson’s clever costumes bring the story book world to life. For kids who enjoy of Pilkey’s work (including Captain Underpants and Dumb Bunnies), this production will only endear their fandom. It may also provide them with one of the best justices society can offer: a deep appreciation for the arts.
Dog Man: The Musical is now running off Broadway at New World Stages (340 W. 50th Street between 8th and 9th), NY, NY through April 30. For tickets and information, click here.