BARK! The Musical... How the Little Dog Found His Voice

The secret life of man’s best friend is pondered in BARK: The Musical. This quirky show from Swansong Productions tracks a day in the life of a group of dogs who congregate in a local park. Rocks, a young rescue dog, is new to the gang and it seems that he has a lot to learn.

All the performers showed a reasonable amount of doggy behaviour, but still could have gone further with their roles to become more believable.

After an opening number of screechy and over-amplified vocals, BARK launches into what limited plot it has. Rocks is a ‘yelper’ in search of his bark with help from the other dogs, but this constitutes such a minor part of the performance that it doesn’t succeed in holding the piece together. Otherwise, each dog simply sings on rotation about a different aspect of their existence. The book and lyrics from Gavin Dillard, Robert Schrock and Mark Winkler provide a varied exploration of a dog’s life, including house-training, fleas and a crush on Lassie. However, without a clear plot line, this performance seems to drag on endlessly and could use trimming.

Emily Chesterton gives outstanding vocals and her operatic voice suits the upper class canine she plays. Dale Adams also performs a great wide-eyed innocence as Rocks. There’s no false ears or tails here; the audience are simply expected to suspend their disbelief and see the humans before them as animals. All the performers showed a reasonable amount of doggy behaviour, but still could have gone further with their roles to become more believable.

Choreography from Francesca Goodridge, who also directs, is consistently smooth throughout the performance and it seems that every line or lyric has been allocated a concise movement. The entirety of the stage is used with actors occasionally even sitting on the empty front row seats. However, reinforcements are definitely needed on the park bench at the centre of the stage, which struggled under the force of the dancing upon it. A loud crack seemed to take both actors and audience by surprise.

There’s fun to be had at BARK. The overtly cheesy jokes and awkward digs at the audience will appeal to some. I did see a number of dog owners in the audience nodding and laughing in recognition of their pooches’ odd behaviours. However, without a driving plot, it’s fun that tires quickly.

Reviews by Carla van der Sluijs

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Performances

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The Blurb

A stunning musical homage to dogs and their endearingly human hearts. This hungry, horny and bitingly funny cast of six canine characters lend their own dubious wisdom to the puppy who has yet to find his voice. Bring a biscuit and a tissue and get ready to fall in love! ‘Howlingly funny! Emotionally stunning!’ (Critic’s Choice, LA Times). ‘An absolute theatrical howl!’ (Critics' Pick, Chicago Tribune). ‘I love these marvelous melodic mutts… go!' (Jerry Herman, composer of Hello Dolly).

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