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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 21, 2006

HTY's doggie show a pooch parade for all ages

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

From left, Jonathan Sypert, Reb Beau Allen (blue hat), Elizabeth Wolfe (green hat), Emily Tam, BullDog and Hermen Tesoro Jr. are canine companions in "Go, Dog. Go!"

Brad Goda

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'GO, DOG, GO!'

A musical romp based on a book by P.D. Eastman, adapted by Allison Gregory and Steven Dietz; produced by the Honolulu Theatre for Youth

Premieres at 7:30 p.m. today; repeats at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Saturdays, through May 20 (the 4:30 p.m. May 20 performance will be signed for the deaf)

Tenney Theatre, St. Andrew's Cathedral

$16 general, $8 youths under 18 and seniors over 60

839-9885, www.htyweb.org

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The Honolulu Theatre for Youth goes to the dogs when "Go, Dog. Go!" is unleashed tonight at Tenney Theatre.

Joe Dodd, the set, costume and props designer, bit at the chance to bring some canine candor to the show and the performing space.

"It's as if these dogs are putting on theater," director Eric Johnson said.

Black faux dog fur adorns the white proscenium, a la Dalmatian spots. The black grand piano is covered with white "fur," too.

The footlights at the front of the stage are decorated as dog bowls. And the actors are clad in doggie gear, with floppy ears and sniffy noses.

"It's all about imagination," said Johnson, the resident artistic director at HTY. "The dogs feel and do what humans go through and like. They celebrate the joy and the excitement of the simple things of life, like driving a car or playing ball."

It's also an opportunity for family audiences to take paws and have fun.

It's certainly OK to show up at the theater with some doggie orientation. You wouldn't want to have your child on a leash, but you'd be within the spirit of the production if you showed up with an exquisite dog collar or a furry vest or a T-shirt emblazoned with "Purina."

Patrons are advised to leave their fleas at the door and will be cautioned against seat-chewing or drooling. Burying bones in the parking lot is not permitted. And it would be uncouth to have a dogfight.

On the other hand, howling with delight might be acceptable in place of applause.

Cats, who have their own musical, are not particularly welcome.

The play has a simple flavor of a silent movie or vaudevillian romp, with piano accompaniment by Sara Shaklian through about 90 percent of the underan-hour running time. The actors even had to go to dog obedience school, learning pooch choreography by Kristin Ing.

The source of the play is the P.D. Eastman children's classic, known for its succinct text and delightful illustrations, from which Allison Gregory and Steve Dietz built a short play with music.

"The book is famous for two things: It's an early reader for kids with its simple language," said Johnson. "And the second thing is how the fantastic illustrations show dogs doing human things."

HTY's acting ensemble has gone doggone wild with this one, said Johnson. The players include Jonathan Sypert as MC Dog, Reb Beau Allen as Blue Dog, Elizabeth Wolfe as Green Dog, BullDog as Red Dog, Hermen Tesoro Jr. as Yellow Dog and Emily Tam as Purple Dog and Hattie.

"I think it's a tribute (to the book) to how much creativity has played in showing the dog's perspective," said Johnson.

The show is targeting family audiences, the prime group at HTY's public performances, and the production is very kid-friendly, with dog actors venturing into the audience for part of the action or interaction with spectators.

"It's fun for 3-year-olds," said Johnson. "But older kids will also enjoy dogs playing ball, driving a car, working with different tools. Stuff humans do."

BullDog, one of the veteran HTY actors, is particularly type-cast in this one, said Johnson. "He's hysterical; really, it's a role he's wanted to do. He's dressed as a bulldog, with baggy skin. And he's funny."

Tam, as Hattie (when she's not Purple Dog), also will be a popular figure. "She comes in several times during the show, wearing a hat and asking MC Dog if he likes it. The hats become wilder and bigger."

The show is HTY's costliest (Johnson declined to reveal numbers) because of the need for materials not commonly available.

"I imagine the fur supply in town has gone way down," said Johnson.

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.