101 Dalmatians - Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

101 Dalmatians reviews – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre 2022 ★★★

The Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park opened its new musical 101 Dalmatians on Friday night, 22 July 2022, staring Kate Fleetwood as Cruella de Vil.

Check out our Reviews Round-up, below, from the Times, Telegraph, Guardian and more.

Based on Dodie Smith’s famous book, the musical is adapted by Zinnie Harris, with music and lyrics by Douglas Hodge, book by Johnny McKnight, direction by Timothy Sheader and puppetry design and direction by Toby Olié (Running Wild).

Dalmatians Pongo and Perdi in the show are puppeteered by Danny Collins (Pongo Voice), Emma Lucia (Perdi Voice), Yana Penrose (Perdi Head) and Ben Thompson (Pongo Head). Other cast includes Jamil Abbasi (Ensemble), Stuart Angell (Captain Head), George Bukhari (Jasper), Sonya Cullingford (Ensemble), Jade Davies (Swing), Karen Fishwick (Danielle), Joseph Fletcher (Ensemble), Taofique Folarin (Swing), Courtney George (Ensemble), Tash Holway (Swing and Dance Captain), CJ Johnson (Ensemble), Kody Mortimer (Ensemble), Simon Oskarsson (Swing), Tom Peters (Captain Voice), Eric Stroud (Dominic), Jonny Weldon (Casper), and Grace Wylde (Madam Doué).

The show runs at the Open Air Theatre until 28 August 2022.

Photo: Mark Senior

More about 101 Dalmatians at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Average Critics Rating
★★★

101 Dalmatians reviews

The Evening Standard
★★★★

"You’d be barking to miss it"

"Douglas Hodge’s version of the classic tale based on Zinnie Harris’s earlier adaptation is a hoot"

"Hodge and writer Johnny McKnight – working from an earlier stage adaptation by Zinnie Harris - update the story to contemporary London with mixed narrative results but to great comic effect. Those expecting a retread of the beloved 1961 Disney animation will be rudely jarred: there’s lots of bottom sniffing and fart gags here, plus an attempt to equate Cruella’s viciousness with the anti-immigration rhetoric of right-wing trolls."

"The puppies are simply but beautifully suggested by the cast manipulating yapping heads and wagging tails, and by four child actors playing escapees from Cruella’s lair, a nightmarish slaughterhouse sprouting hooks and blades. Parents Pongo and Perdita are given life by two operators each, their voices and back limbs supplied by Danny Collins and Emma Lucia. They’re elegant, eloquent creations, the doggy body language spot on, but it does sometimes look as if the rear operator is up to something bestial – and once you see that, you can’t unsee it."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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The Telegraph
★★★★

"A bit of a dog’s dinner, but a very tasty one too"

"This long delayed musical version of the Dodie Smith classic feels like a success almost despite itself"

"However the actor turned composer Douglas Hodge spent his lockdown, it’s tempting to wonder why he didn’t devote more of it to conjuring up a few memorable tunes. His score for Open Air’s long delayed musical update of the Dodie Smith canine classic (the venue’s first ever original musical commission was originally scheduled to run in 2020) contains a jaunty mix of folk, jazz and rock, but barely a single melody that sticks in the ear."

"Yet as the sky darkens into dusk, this messy show finds joy amid the jumble of ideas. As the plot to rescue the stolen puppies by the parent dogs and their frantic owners gathers momentum, there are some marvellous coups de theatre, the most spectacular of which involves a pair of alarming protruding eyeballs."

"A bit of a dog’s dinner at times, then, but a very tasty one too."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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The Guardian
★★

"Puppyish enthusiasm can’t save a patchy production"

"This family musical and adorable puppets will keep the kids happy, but parents might wish they could go walkies"

"Thank God for Kate Fleetwood’s Cruella de Vil (fur, stilettos, big wigs), who plays her part for kicks at first but brings a baroque darkness later on and channels the sinister energy of her creepy Disney cartoon forebear. It is hammy, and sometimes panto-ish, but it works."

"The show certainly improves as it goes along, and it works best as a children’s show: my two young nieces stayed hooked throughout on press night. So, perhaps a crowd-pleaser for the kids but one which may leave some parents wanting to go walkies."

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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The Times
★★★★

"Wild woofs of approval"

"Kate Fleetwood makes a full-throated villain, and in Timothy Sheader’s jaunty production the political subtext (there’s even a glimpse of a partying Boris Johnson) gives way to an old-fashioned romp. Composer-lyricist Douglas Hodge and book writer Johnny McKnight serve up a sugar-and-spice confection — based on a stage adaptation by Zinnie Harris — which ought to appeal to adults and children alike."

"Katrina Lindsay’s costumes add flair, while Colin Richmond’s set turns the giant letters spelling out the show’s title into a shabby-genteel domestic interior. Liam Steel’s choreography supplies lots of doggy energy too. Bow, wow."

Clive Davis, The Times
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City AM

"A musical, of course, lives or dies on the strength of its songs, and there’s a real paucity – pawcity! – of decent tunes. Fleetwood gets the pick of the litter in Für Fur and I Smell Puppies but beyond that the songs range from “word a day” to “immediately forgettable” to “actively abrasive”."

"Despite all this, the joy of being back at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre makes the whole experience almost worthwhile – but this production is already due a visit to the farm."

Steve Dinneen, City AM
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TimeOut
★★★

"Kate Fleetwood steals the show as an influencer Cruella de Vil in this uneven new family musical"

"Adapted direct from Dodie Smith’s 1956 kids’ book – ie, absolute not a Disney production – ‘101 Dalmatians’ is a scrappy affair. It’s the first ever original musical from the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, and it boasts charming puppetry, big-name writers and a scream of a turn from Kate Fleetwood as the evil Cruella de Vil. But by the towering standards of the OAT – known for its revelatory musical revivals – it’s pretty uneven."

"My kids didn’t care about any of this: they enjoyed two hours of a lighthearted good vs evil yarn with some cool puppets and a boo-hissable villain. They didn’t worry about the merits of ‘101 Dalmatians’ as a musical for the ages. And if you can take the same attitude, you’ll have a blast, or at least you’ll have a blast in the good bits. But ultimately the Open Air Theatre is one of the best musical theatre venues in London, and by its own extremely lofty standards, ‘101 Dalmatians’ is a bit of a dog’s dinner."

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut
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The Stage
★★★

"Energetic and fast-paced”"

After a hectic first half, the production comes into its own in the second act. As dusk falls, everything becomes a bit more magical. The narrative finds its heart with the introduction of an endearing young company that plays the four escapee puppies, and the moment where the dogs of the neighbourhood team up to help rescue them is delightfully silly – a pair of boxing boxers, a tap-dancing poodle, a swishy-tailed Afghan hound, two Gingham-clad Scottish terriers are all portrayed through lovely costume design from Katrina Lindsay.

"Despite its flaws, this is still an enjoyable show – for kids and adults alike. On a summer evening, it makes for paw-some (sorry) fun."

Farah Najib, The Stage
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The Independent
★★★

"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, The Independent
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The Observer
★★★★

"Douglas Hodge’s new Dodie Smith musical is spot on"

"... a perfect post-lockdown choice for London’s ever-swelling, dog-doting crowd (of whom I am one)"

"Kate Fleetwood’s Cruella De Vil is cruel and vile to the max, vaping in an ominous grey fur cape, boasting that she is a social influencer. “Sit! I am not a woman who takes no for an answer!” she shrieks at the dogs. The music is tunefully poppy and in the splendid Für Fur, Cruella confesses what makes her tick."

Kate Kellaway, The Observer
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The Financial Times
★★★

"It doesn’t match up to some of this venue’s outstanding musical revivals, but this big-hearted family show is as benign and bubbly as a contented puppy"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Daily Mail
★★★

"Puppet puppies are too cute to be worn by Cruella"

"Zinnie Harris and Johnny McKnight’s somewhat worthy adaptation combines the bombast of panto, the mumsiness of CBeebies, the mischief of The Rocky Horror Show and, inevitably, the schmaltz of Walt Disney. Even so, it’s a hard, Cruella-ish heart that would not warm to the cutesiness of Timothy Sheader’s dog-lovin’, family-friendly production."

Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail
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Daily Express
★★★

"A long way from Disney's version"

"This musical version of Dodie Smith's book finds its paws in the appropriate setting of Regent's Park, where the story is set."

"Resplendent in a succession of outrageous wigs and costumes, Kate Fleetwood makes a good fist of Cruella and delivers her numbers with old-school panache, although Hodge’s frequently witty lyrics are ill-served by his banal tune-making."

'The occasional highlights in the second half aren’t enough to raise it above the level of a lesser-spotted musical."

Neil Norman, Daily Express
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