Treats for good dogs

Bark! The Musical

Bark! The Musical, 12:30 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday; 6:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday; $15-$38. The Pollock Stage at the Sacramento Theatre Company, 1419 H Street; (916) 443-6722; Through February 17.

Sacramento Theatre Company

1419 H St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 446-7501

Rated 3.0

It’s too easy to say Sacramento Theatre Company has gone to the dogs. Rather, how about STC’s Bark! The Musical is Cats for canine lovers. And I mean that in the kindest way.

Like Cats, Bark! attributes humanlike inner lives and personalities to animals who then sing songs that reveal their selves to us. But Bark! has neither T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats as basis, nor Andrew Lloyd Webber’s songs. Mark Winkler and Gavin Geoffrey Dillard wrote the book and collaborated on the lyrics with Robert Schrock (with additional lyrics by Jonathan Heath and Danny Lukic) to music by David Troy Francis—a big team for such a slight, though entertaining, production.

A cast of six portrays the half-dozen dogs at day care and in the dog park: King, the Labrador retriever (Armond Edward Dorsey); Boo, the cocker spaniel (Jessica Goldman); Golde, the bull dog (Miranda D. Lawson); Sam, the pit bull mutt (Sean Patrick Nill); Chanel, the French poodle (Tyler Wipfli); and Rocks, the Jack Russell terrier pup (Scottie Woodard). Goldman missed opening-weekend performances because of severe muscle strain, but is expected to return this weekend. She was replaced by 14-year-old understudy Meghan Greene, who performed gamely but with less personality and presence than Goldman routinely brings to performances.

Among the cast, Lawson and Nill stand out. Nill’s rapid-fire “M-U-T-T Rap” and Lawson’s “Howling Just to Scare Away the Blues” are highlights.

Songs such as “Whizzin’ on Stuff” and “Bark!” celebrate the joy of dogness and of finding one’s voice, and temper the sadness of “The Pound Song,” which laments a young mother’s forced separation from her “children.” “Siren Symphony” rates a howl-elujah.

A three-piece band led by Samuel Clein provides live accompaniment. Michael Laun—who saw the show at its 2004 premiere in Los Angeles and brought it STC—directs, emphasizing equal parts playfulness and poignancy.