101 Dalmatians review: The influencer economy comes for Pongo and Perdi

The puppets are cute in this musical adaptation but the social media references are cringey

Isobel Lewis
Monday 25 July 2022 12:55 BST
Eric Stroud and Karen Fishwick as Dominic and Danielle in ‘101 Dalmatians'
Eric Stroud and Karen Fishwick as Dominic and Danielle in ‘101 Dalmatians' (Mark Senior)

Musical theatre is in a love affair with social media. Some shows, such as Dear Evan Hansen and Millennials at the Other Palace, have tackled it directly. In Andrew Lloyd Webber’s take on Cinderella, meanwhile, the classic tale was transposed into a world of Instagram-obsessed Love Island wannabes. The new production of 101 Dalmatians at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre takes the same tack. And – as with Cinderella – it’s safe to say that it doesn’t always work.

We know the story. Dalmatians Pongo and Perdi (portrayed here as puppets, voiced by Ben Thompson and Emma Lucia) catch eyes in the park, bringing their humans Dominic and Danielle (Eric Stroud and Karen Fishwick) together. Soon come puppies upon puppies upon puppies, which Dominic and Danielle give up everything to focus on – although it’s not really clear what their jobs were anyway. And then Cruella De Vil (Kate Fleetwood) bursts into their lives (and, uninvited, their home) in a flurry of vape smoke, with a dastardly plan involving fur coats.

As in the recent production of The Life of Pi, it’s no surprise that the puppets are the highlights of the show. Perdy and Pongo are each moved by a puppeteer and actor, the latter playing their back legs and singing voices. The puppies (who are, naturally, really stinking cute) are hand-controlled heads and wiggly wagging tails. A handful of other puppets make brief appearances – a lolloping velvet Shar Pei is particularly gorgeous – but they feel underused to make room for their spotty siblings.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in