Breckenridge Backstage Theatre presents ‘Dog Park: The Musical’
If you go
What: “Dog Park: The Musical,” by Jahnna Beecham, Malcolm Hillgartner and Michael J. Hume, with songs by Hillgartner, a Breckenridge Backstage Theatre production
When: Select dates through Saturday, Jan. 3
Where: Backstage Theatre, 121 S. Ridge St., Breckenridge
Cost: Tickets start at $27 for adults and $20 for youth younger than 18; group rates are also available. A $5 Yappy Hour special is offered when purchased with ticket, which includes one snack and choice of beverage.
More information: The Backstage Theatre offers a café-style, pre-show in the lobby, with mixed drinks and snacks. Tickets are available online at www.backstagetheatre.org, by calling (970) 453-0199 or by visiting the box office one hour before show time.
On Tuesday, Nov. 25, the Breckenridge Backstage Theatre presented the regional premiere of “Dog Park: The Musical,” directed by Christopher Willard. The production will continue with performances on select dates through Saturday, Jan. 3, at the Backstage Theatre in Breckenridge.
“Dog Park: The Musical” looks at modern love as told from a canine perspective. When the local dog park hosts a “Lovers with Leashes” day, it transforms into a singles spot for dogs and their human companions, including Daisy, the lone Westie female, who must choose a mate from one of three contenders: Bogie, the territorial rebel without a collar; Champ, the cocky show dog; and Itchy, the high-strung terrier.
LOOKING AT LOVE
Savannah Lake (“Shrek The Musical”) stars in the role of Daisy. She said being a single woman herself, she definitely understands her character’s fear of putting herself out there after being heartbroken a couple of times.
“She’s dealt with some not-so-great characters in her past, and because of that, she has a fear of trying again,” Lake said. “She has a fear of going out and giving love another chance. And I really like how she builds up that courage and she finds it, and she doesn’t always get it right, but in the end, it all turns out how it’s supposed to.”
Josh Nelson (“Avenue Q”), who plays Bogie, said that if you delve into his character a bit, you discover that he’s actually scared of love.
“He’s the outsider; he doesn’t want to get involved with it,” he said. “It’s more of a pain to him, he feels like, which is funny because he wants it probably more than anybody else. He sabotages himself a lot of the time so he doesn’t have to deal with it, which I think we all can personally relate to sometimes, as well.”
Because the show tells its story of romance through a four-legged lens, Lake said she thinks “Dog Park” allows the audience to look at love and dating in a less serious, more comical way.
“There’s a lot of dramas out there, a lot of dramatic plays about romance, and sappy, sweet romance movies, and it’s nice to look at something that’s just silly and takes it all with a grain of salt,” she said. “It does its job: It makes you smile, makes you laugh and lets you look at characters finding love.”
Drew Hirschboeck is making his Backstage Theatre debut in the role of Champ, whose claim to fame is the lead in a commercial for a tick and scabies shampoo. The actor said his character is a show dog through and through.
“Champ is actually very, very similar to a lot of people I have known backstage at shows,” Hirschboeck said. “He’s a really funny, likeable and somewhat awful stereotype of actors.”
Hirschboeck said “Dog Park” is unique as a romantic comedy because it’s honest with the way lonely people look for love, with the added element of playing a dog, an animal that wears its heart on its sleeve.
“You have all the comedy of actually being honest and searching for someone to take care of you, and at the same time all the comedy of hiding nothing,” he said.
Jonathan Hallowell (“Spamalot”), who stars as Itchy, said getting to play romantic roles as canines is liberating because the feelings are much more straightforward.
“Itchy has a lot of fears and neuroses, but he’s also pretty positive, so he goes out there and puts the best foot forward,” Hallowell said. “But his neurotic nature tends to get in his way a lot; he’s one of the comic relief characters of this show. He’s always the last one to be picked — that’s usually how it goes for Itchy, I think.”
MUSICAL FOR THE HOLIDAYS
The music in “Dog Park” provides character development as much as the dialogue, with each of the character’s theme songs being matched to his or her personality. The show features jazz-inspired songs, ballads and doo-wop, which aren’t typical styles found in musicals, Hallowell said.
“It’s a lot of four-part jazz harmony, that style of the 1940s, which is cool to be a part of, especially with a cast of four people,” Nelson said. “It’s rare to have a cast that small. We’re all singing these types of harmonies, and that story of music is a lot different, especially from ‘Avenue Q,’ which was the last show I did up here.
“The whole premise of ‘Dog Park’ is very much based on a 1940s movie. The name Bogie is a shout-out to Humphrey Bogart, and Daisy is a lot of Lauren Bacall and different actresses of the times. They have that playful banter that you see in movies like ‘Casablanca,’ so it’s kind of natural that it goes that way.”
“Dog Park: The Musical” deviates from the productions the Backstage Theatre typically puts on during the holiday season, but the zany fun of the show is still attractive for all audiences.
“It’s not ‘A Christmas Carol,’ but I think it’s important that it’s a show that the entire family can go see,” Nelson said. “It gives you a chance to see something that’s not necessarily Christmas-like, but it’s about love and taking care of your pack, per se, talking about dogs. It’s about getting along with people and love, which is what Christmas is all about. It’s not directly Christmas-like, but the elements are all there.”
That familial, caring feeling extends to the cast, which has become great friends, a dynamic that carries onto the stage, Hallowell said.
“We’re all living together up here, so we spend a lot of time together, watching movies, playing games with each other,” he said. “When we go to the stage tonight, we’re bringing a lot of that fun with us.”
Hirschboeck only had one more thing to add — “Fetch ticket.”
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