Dec. 27, 2004
by Jay Reiner

An Undeniable Crowd-Pleaser

Whether "Bark!" will do for dogs what "Cats" has done for cats remains to be seen, but the show, now in its fourth month, is an undeniable crowd-pleaser.

Composer David Troy Francis and lyricists Gavin Geoffrey Dillard and Robert Schrock have put together a fairly clever series of musical sketches that celebrate nearly all things doggy -- entirely from the dogs' point of view. Not surprisingly, the numbers with the most bite are those that, like some dogs, aren't quite so anxious to please and have their bellies rubbed. One such sketch illustrates what mutts really think about all those purebred pooches whose parents never strayed into the wrong backyard. Another details the odd pleasures of filth and fleas, while a third offers a disaffected bitch who's grown tired of her owner's cutesy-poo prattle. Also to be avoided (whether man or dog) are shots in the rear followed by removal of one's testicles.

Six actors -- Lauri Johnson, Joe Souza, Ginny McMath, Robert Mammana, Katherine Von Till, Chad Borden -- are unleashed onstage to take the parts of the canines. In "Guarding Missy," McMath does a good job impersonating a dog we've all met -- the hair-trigger guard dog who won't shut up. On a gentler note, in "A Grassy Field" Souza captures the deep bond that exists between dogs and humans. The songs themselves are mostly witty (except for a clunker like "I'm in Love With Lassie"), with musical styles ranging from rap and salsa to the Andrews Sisters. Kay Cole choreographs and directs.


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