Canines on the move

Jazzy OFT show: Watch beloved kids’ picture book ‘Go, Dog. Go’ come to life

Contributing writerOctober 12, 2012 

“Go, Dog. Go” is a classic picture book, familiar as part of the same Beginner Books series as “The Cat in the Hat” and other Seuss favorites.

It’s also a show with jazzy, sophisticated music and choreography by Radco’s Roel Hammerschlag.

The musical version of the story of some very human-esque dogs and their adventures with cars, roller skates and more opens tonight. It’s the first show of Olympia Family Theater’s seventh season.

“The band is playing during almost all of the action,” said Jen Ryle, the show’s director and OFT’s artistic director. “It’s almost like blocking a silent movie.

“It uses colors and shapes and the action of the dogs — although they are not doglike in the book or on stage,” she said. “They are not crawling around. They are humans. They just happen to have ears and tails.”

The jazzy music makes the show fun for adults, too, she said. “It has some scatting in it. It’s fun to listen to for adults, and the action and fun of the dogs appeals to the youngest, all the way down to 3 or even younger.”

“The score was written for accordion,” said musical director Stephanie Claire, “so imagine French cafe and jazz and bouncy dance music.

“You’ll hear some familiar things in it, like ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ and ‘How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?’ but then it morphs into a totally different thing.”

The four-piece band — pianist Claire, percussionist Scuff Acuff, bassist Ben Matthews and guitarist Rich Sikorski — will be on stage during the show.

“We get to be part of the interaction with the actors and do some singing ourselves — or oohing, I should say,” Claire said. “There’s lots of ‘oohing’ and ‘la-la’ and be bop and nonsense lyrics.”

The dogs sing, too — and the show does have some dialogue, mostly spoken by M.C. Dog, who narrates some of the action. The words are simple, as in the original book.

But for the most part, the story is conveyed by action, which mixes choreography and improvisation.

“There’s a lot of movement because there are so few words,” Claire said. “I wouldn’t call it dancing per se. The actors are doing choreographed things in certain places, and then they are free to do what they feel, depending on the music and the scene.”

The dogs play, snooze, skate, ride scooters and a little bicycle, and even drive cars — inherited from Ballet Northwest, which used them in a production of “An American in Paris” about 25 years ago.

Ryle spotted the cars — which the actors wear on suspenders — last year when OFT borrowed space at the ballet studio for set painting.

“I saw them way up on the scaffolding,” she said, “and I thought, ‘If we ever do ‘Go, Dog. Go,’ I know whom to call.

“They were willing to give them to us,” she said. “They were these adorable props ready to go for us. We gave them a new paint job.”

GO, DOG, GO

What: Olympia Family Theater begins its seventh season with a musical adaptation of P.D. Eastman’s popular early reader book about the adventures of some very human-like dogs.

When: 7 p.m. today plus Oct. 18-19, 25-26; 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday plus Oct. 20-21, 27-28; and 4:30 p.m. Oct. 20 and 27

Where: The Black Box at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

Tickets: $16 adults; $12 students, seniors and military; $9 ages 12 and younger. For the Oct. 18 show, pay what you can.

Season tickets: Buy tickets to three or more shows and save 10 percent. (Discount is not available online.)

More information: olyft.org, 360-570-1638; for tickets, olytix.com or 360-753-8586

Also: The show will be most enjoyed by ages 3 and older.

THE REST OF THE SEASON

“The Wind in the Willows” (Nov. 30-Dec. 23), a world premiere musical adaptation by Andy Gordon: Adapted from Kenneth Grahame’s beloved book, the play follows the adventures of Ratty, Mole, Toad and Badger.

“James and the Giant Peach” (Feb. 1-17): The company’s youth-only production is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s fantastic story about a boy’s voyage aboard a peach.

“The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood” (March 29-April 14): This version of Robin Hood, by Mary Lynn Dobson, adds a Pythonesque twist to the tale of the hero in green.

“Cinder Edna” (May 24- June 9), a world premiere musical adaptation by Ted Ryle: This musical, based on the book by Ellen Jackson, tells the tale of Cinderella’s next-door neighbor, who has a different approach to life.

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