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101 Dalmations, the Musical — Review November 23, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Entertainment, Pets, Theatre.
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There are three reasons to see 101 DALMATIONS, THE MUSICAL….1) Rachel York, 2) Rachel York, and 3) Rachel York. Playing Cruella DeVil she has enough energy for three shows — look out Glenn Close, your nemesis has arrived.

Rachel York in 101 Dalmations, The Musical.

Cast, kids, and Dogs in 101 Dalmations, the Musical

Ok, now that I got that out of the way, I can honestly say that I enjoyed the musical more than I should have. Any new musical is always better than no new musicals. But 101 Dalmations is not ready for prime time. It’s a shame — they have a lot going for them, including a great musical score, good performances all around, some very enthusiastic kids in the cast, and that knock-out performance by Rachel York.

But it has a lot of problems too. Seen in the Sunday afternoon performance at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, in a half-empty house, the audience young and old was squirming in their seats by mid-Act One. The 5-year olds were mostly OUT of their seats by that point.

And there’s the problem — when the show works well it appeals to both kids and adults. When it is at its worst, even the adults have a hard time sitting still. There is too much talk — WAY too much talk — like a half hour too much talk in this 2-hour musical. And there is actually too much music too!…It’s a terrific score that mixes in all styles of musical comedy-style songs, but there is too much of it.  Trim the show to 90 minutes without an intermission, and you’ll have yourself a tight family entertainment.

Then there are the stilt problems. To make the “dogs” (played by people) look smaller, the rest of the cast is on 15 inch stilts. It looks terrible. While the sets are creatively skewed to make everything look like you are looking at it from a dogs-eye view, the stilts themselves are ridiculous. Two performers fell during this performance — and I have to admit by the middle of the first act, I started to watch the stilt walkers (and dancers) to see who else might go down, sort of the same way you watch figure skaters, to see who falls on their butt. That was enough to distract me from what might otherwise be some fine moments. I’d suggest they cut the stilts and work on creative use of costumes to achieve the same effect.

And then there is the other major problem — there aren’t enough dogs. Sure the kids are cute when they dance — and the Bark Chain is particularly well handled. The directing is generally sound. But the real dogs are reserved for dog tricks at the end of the acts, and there isn’t enough — the tricks are fun! A dog pees and flowers grow. They have charisma — the entire audience comes to life while they are on stage. It’s too bad that the rest of the show doesn’t have that kind of spark of life.

Which brings me back to Rachel York. She chews up the scenery, sings her heart out, flays her arms and legs and manages to stay balanced, and just seems to be having the time of her life. Her demise is strange — I understand why they handle it the way they do — it IS a family musical with lots of children in the audience after all…but it’s an anti-climatic end to an otherwise great stage performance.

To save yourself two hours — you can see Rachel York perform her entire number called “Hot” here: http://www.the101dalmatiansmusical.com/index.html

I liked the show. I hope they take the time to fix it as it travels across the country prior to a three-week engagement at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden. It’s not ready for a full-time Broadway production. It’s a shame. There are a lot of good actors and technicians at work here. But in the long-run, it needs work, lots of it, and more real dogs. Even if they do nothing else but cross the stage from time to time with the actors.

Despite that, the audience really seemed to have a great time. The chatter at intermission wasn’t bad – people genuinely liked the show. And there sure is a dearth of decent family-oriented musicals these days. The audience reviews at Ticketmaster.com, for example, are almost all entirely A’s and B’s. That’s pretty darn good!…And you actually do leave the theatre humming the theme song. That’s not bad either.

In a surreal moment – the show ended at the same time the Lions game ended down the street. Lions fans and families with toddlers mixed on Woodward in what can only be described as Detroit at its finest.

My First Day at Day Camp, Guest Post by Ch. Madison Baumanis July 10, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Pets.
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Ron dropped me off at PetsHotel at PetSmart this morning, and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous at first. He has never left me alone anywhere for the first month…and I didn’t like seeing him go, so I barked a bit.

Madison Who Me?

But as soon as he was gone, there were wonders to behold….a private room with a tv! And then, viola, DayCamp time! I got to go in the room first — and all the other dogs came in and met me. I made friends with a whole bunch of other dogs and puppies. It was so much fun, I forgot Ron was gone until he picked me up 9 hours later! I got to play ball and fetch and chase and romp and roll around. I loved the Camp Staff! They were fun!

The nice people at the DayCamp gave Ron a report card (in writing!) and they said I had a great 1st day; I liked to romp ‘n roll; made lots of friends; rested during breaks; took care of business; and was one happy camper!

I can’t wait to go back next week! Maybe I’ll see some of the same friends on friday! And I heard Dad say something about “that was the best 20 dollars he’s ever spent” to the lady behind the counter. I don’t know what dollars are, but it sounds pretty good to me.

But, boy, am I tired now. I had to take a nap in the Escape on the way home. I ate my dinner, and now I am too pooped to peep….thanks, Dad! I had a great day! Zzzzzzzz

This is Ron taking over now: For the record: PetsHotel at Petsmart; 734-222-0934, ext 6; Monday through Sunday; Check-in begins at 7 am. Pickup times vary. Daycamp; Daycare;  and overnight services available. Dogs and Cats welcome. Highly Recommended.

Madison at One Month July 9, 2009

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Madison has been home for one month now. She’s adjust well…although we don’t have a lot of moments like these:

Madison Lensbaby

She’s definately still a pup with all requisite puppy energy. We spend three trips outside each day to do this:

Madison - Ball!

She LOVES chasing her balls — we need to use two of them for maximum speed and distance. I wear out long before she wears out.

But she has totally made my house her home: and it’s been great to have a dog in the house again. Oh — we discovered another saving grace: PetHotel at PetSmart in Ann Arbor. When I can’t get home within 5 or 6 hours, she goes to Day Camp at PetHotel. She loves it – frolicking with up to 20 other dogs for hours on end — and I love it because she comes home and looks more like that first photo than the second one for the rest of the night! Highly recommended!

And that’s the view from Ann Arbor today…

A Place Called Home…(Dog Version)… June 13, 2009

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Madison came home this week from the Humane Society of Huron Valley. She’s a Black Lab puppy that was surrendered by a family that could not take care of her when an elderly Alzheimers parent came to live with them.

Madison Eye

I went to take a peak at who was there, and this little Black Lab head popped out of her kennel and that is as far as I got. My last Black lab (Gabe’s) final months are well documented in this blog…

But now – a new pup at home! There’s noise in the house again, and it’s all good — she’s housebroken, behaves well in the house, and sleeps through the night. I’ve been able to leave her alone in the house for up to 4 hours with no problems. Yeah!  Good girl!

She does come with the requisite 6-month old pup qualities — lots of energy, banging into walls, jumping, flying through the air, and running around the backyard like she was a banshee…

But it certainly makes you wonder about the decisions people make about pets. If you are going to get a pup, then that pup is not disposable when someone new enters your life (or on this case old). There is absolutely nothing about this beautiful pup that would have prevented peaceful coexistance. She was obviously loved – she is well groomed, and she looks like she had a bath and nails clipped before the family brought her to the Humane Society…so it makes one even sadder at the decision that this family had to make to surrender her.

Anyway — enough diatribes — their loss is my gain. And in the four days shes been with me so far, I have come to learn that she loves chasing after birds, doesn’t walk well on a leash yet, and is not as good a poser for photos as my previous lab…

Luckily, I am on vacation for the next few weeks, so there will be lots of good bonding time, even if this vacation has instantly become a stay-cation. Well worth it for the new pup that’s running the house. And how great is it to have noise in the house and someone to greet me when I walk in the door! Somewhere Gabe is smiling, and thinking I’m a fool for adopting another Black Lab, and happy she is safe and sound and out of the shelter.


Goodbye, Friend April 13, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Pets, Uncategorized.
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Rest in Peace, Gabe…Aug 31, 1998 – April 13, 2009


Photo taken October 31st, one day after his liver cancer diagnosis and first brush with death. He lived 167 days beyond that, with two other close calls. His energy and heart gave out this morning. I will miss my friend, but I know he’s off chasing squirrels in dog heaven somewhere.

Gabe Update…Black Labs, Vets, and Pills March 18, 2009

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Many have been asking about Gabe — thought I would dedicate today’s post to his current health and welfare.

First off, here’s a photo from the other day — he looks good, but his health continues to pose problems.


Gabe has liver cancer, and he’s just finished Day 141 post diagnosis. We’ve had two close calls – the first at the end of October, the second a few weeks ago when his face swelled up like a puffer fish and he had trouble breathing, all related to swollen facial lymph nodes.

He’s now controlled on Denamrin (for his Liver), Prednisone (steroid), Lasix (diuretic), Interferon, Resources CAS Options and Resources Blood and Energy supplements (for his anemia). He also takes Desaquin for muscle and joint pain, but frankly, I don’t think it does anything.

Over the past week, his breathing has become increasingly more labored, lots of panting and difficulty sleeping. We went for a short walk in the park across the street this morning and a 500 foot walk did him in for the day. But he has plenty of energy at home most of the day, is eating like a horse, and likes to sit outside in the backyard looking at the neighbor dogs. During the past couple weeks he has stopped playing. He has always lived for stuffed animals — tossing them around, chewing at them, and squeeking them for hours at a time. He hasn’t even looked at one of them in the past three weeks. I leave them scattered around the house, but he doesn’t give them a second thought.

The Vet is counting his remaining days in weeks, not months; but so far, he’s certainly proven to be the “miracle dog” that the Vet called him a few weeks ago. There is definitely no pain involved, and his golden days are happy and comfortable. It certainly attests to what good medication can do to prolong a dog’s life, beyond even what the Vet expected. He’s also getting spoiled and I basically let him eat whatever he wants — despite that, he’s lost about 8 pounds during the past two weeks.

I won’t update this unless there is a change in status, in which case there will be more to say. For now, thanks to everyone for thinking of us, and Gabe is hanging in there. He gives everyone a big dog bark and a lick.