By Nora Fraser, aka The Movie Mom from “The Home Show”
At a time when so much entertainment available to children is cloying, condescending, cynical or desensitizing, Bark! is a breathtaking departure. Although not billed as children’s fare in particular, Bark! is a disarming musical revue with a good message: Empathy.
I have to admit, when I first heard of Bark! I thought it would be people dressed up in big dog suits, pandering to children with goofy cutesy songs. Let’s get one thing straight. Although you may leave the theater wanting to adopt a cast member, there is nothing cutesy about this production. And you don’t need to own a dog or be in the “rescue” business to be entertained and moved by the thoughtful and clever lyrics.
Aside from the dizzying array of wonderful original music that varies from the blues, to rock and roll, to rap and opera, the small company of players demonstrates a vocal range and harmony that puts The Manhattan Transfer to shame.
And the subject matter. Hilarious and gut wrenching. The play puts us in touch with why we love our dogs, why we love each other. Songs like Whizzing on Stuff and Foooood give us an inside look at happy dogs whose owners take them to the park - and keep them inside with the family. Terrier from Mars still makes me tear up, to think of the dog who lives his life, tied to a tree. And Pound reminds us of the throwaway animals that suffer in shelters. The show is so well paced that you don’t really have time to drown in your tears because next, they will have you laughing or tapping your toe to a great song like M-U-T-T RAP, an hilarious rap song about everything that’s wrong with pure bred dogs.
Bark! is not just for dog lovers. It’s for music lovers and anyone who wants to go to the theater to actually feel something, And what better lesson for our children?