Seal Beach Sun News
January 17, 2005

Theater Review

“Bark!”—now in its World Premier at the Coast Playhouse, in West Hollywood, through February 27—is an unapologetic homage to the canines among us. With lyrics by Gavin Geoffrey and Robert Schrock, music and musical direction by David Troy Francis and choreography and stage direction by Kay Cole, “BARK!” is an entertaining and heart-tugging expose on the inner-life of dogs.

A half-dozen performers winningly sing and dance their way into the affections o the audience. And that’s a short walk considering how willingly and quickly theatergoers suspend disbelief (if the long-run of the show and the reaction of audience members at the reviewed matinee are any indication); it’s especially remarkable in view of how minimal the costuming efforts are in this houndish ode to anthropomorphic projection. Indeed, the actors wear what amounts to street clothes; the only doggish accessories are the colorful collars which adorn the neck of each canine character.

Twenty-five tune-based routines take us from the outrageous—“I’m in Love with Lassie”—to the sadly sublime, “Howling just to Scare Away the Blues” and “A Grassy Field”.

Charmingly, each dog has his day, or should we say moment, in the spotlight.

“The Pack” opens the proceedings with the title song, ‘BARK!” (with live music—a synthesizer, keyboards and percussion—conducted by Chris Lavely), and that sets the stage for the action that follows.

Lauri Johnson is marvelous as Molly; her dogged renditions, “Hey You!” and “Howling Just to Scare Away the Blues” add energy and thoughtfulness to the staging.

As Boo, Ginny McMath portrays the sort of pooch you would want to take home. McMath’s “Guarding Missy” is a clever look in the mind and motivations of man’s best friend.

Katherine Von Till imbues Chanel with an astonishing soprano delivery. Von Till’s performance of “Sing!” is a showcase for this actor’s gifts.

Chad Borden is delightful as Chester. Borden’s innocent countenance and wide-eyed connection with the audience is a tonic for blue moods. The rap rendition of “M-U-T-T” (done with backup vocals and musical moves of the “The Stud Pack”, Joe Souza and Joshua Finkel) is a howling highlight of ‘BARK!”

Joe Souza, as Charlie brings a teardrop to the cheek in his emotional interpretation of “Dog’s Best Friend”, as well as the sorrowful, “A Grassy Field”.

It is Joshua Finkel, as Ben, however, who leaves the audience devastated with mirth and laughter in his racy and frolicking performance of “Senorita La Depita Rosarita”.

“BARK!” is an inventive and amusing bite of theater. While we could growl about an unnecessary 15-minute intermission placed in a production that would otherwise be 90 minutes, the bits of joy offered up in “BARK”! far outweigh the quibbles.


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