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

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).

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

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

Average Critics Rating★★★★

101 Dalmatians reviews


“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.”


“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.”


“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.”


“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.”

“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.”

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