Out! Out! Spot!

Harry the Dirty Dog

Adapted by Karen Abbott from the book by Gene Zion
Directed by Bruce Merrill
Manhattan Children's Theater
380 Broadway 4th fl. (weekend mats. only; 212/352-3101; www.theatermania.com)
Non-union production (closes Feb. 13)
Review by Deborah S. Greenhut

Say good-bye to Dick and Jane and their tame games. There's a new dog in town. His name is Harry, and he's taken an exuberant road trip on a long, dirty highway. Destination? Any place but a bathtub. This interactive presentation by Manhattan Children's Theatre celebrated audience participation and man's best friend.

Children and adults bonded immediately with the canine antics of Harry, played by the energetically endearing Emily Hartford. Children of all ages cheered the dog's escapes as happily as they ratted him out to the Boy (Ronald J. Zamber) and Girl (Hannah Wolfe), who only want to take good care of their pet. A Narrator (Heather Platt) supplies continuity between the scenes as Boy and Girl morph into everything from Road Repairpersons to Surfer Dudes and other surprising creatures. At each stop, Harry acquires an assortment of new dirty spots, faithfully delivering Gene Zion's narrative of Harry's transformation "from a white dog with black spots to a black dog with white spots."

Directed by Bruce Merrill, also Manhattan Children's Theater's artistic director, the cast exhibited excellent timing and choreography. Everyone "dirty" danced with Harry, and the familiar songs were uplifting. An inviting, please-touch cartoon set (Cully Long) surrounded the theater. The carefully designed lights (Kevin Hardy) and sound (Laura Maag) and the delightful props (Mary Malmquist) complemented the costumes (Carissa Carmen). All effects supported the numerous characters in a child-friendly way.

At less than an hour, this show was easy on the youngest attention spans. Karen Abbott has adapted the story in a charming way that evoked many yips of approval during the curtain call.

Does Harry take a bath? Go! Fetch ... a ticket and a favorite child, and see for yourself! Caveat emptor: Harry is a dirty dog!


Box Score:

Writing: 2/Music: 1
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2005 Deborah S. Greenhut