Home / News / Why Dog Man Matters or Don’t trust anyone over 11 – Chicago Tribune

Why Dog Man Matters or Don’t trust anyone over 11 – Chicago Tribune


“Dog Man: The Musical,” which will premiere at the Studebaker Theater on Michigan Avenue starting February 25, is a gateway to musical theater for children. I learned this personally when I was studying my daughter, while she was still at the musical peak of “Mean Girls.” One minute he’s insisting there be more Olivia Rodrigo in the car, the next he’s saying “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Again and again. Barbra Streisand is not Lea Michele.

Not that I should be surprised.

If you have no idea who Dog Man is: Dog Man is the kind of breed that shows up in the sand every few years and over time proves once again how wrong parents can be. Jazz, Vietnam, Hip Hop, “On the Road”, Dog Man. I vividly remember my grandfather trying to understand my sensibilities and listening to a Steve Martin album and deciding, without a trace of irony, “This guy is an asshole.” But Dog Man shifts the generation divide from the boundary-pushing teenage years to the early years of primary school.

I resisted Dog Man for a while.

Not that I have anything against author Dav Pilkey and his earlier “Captain Underpants” book series (a common target of the humorless and misguided people who haunt library board meetings). It’s not that I’m against comic books (and the “Dogman” books, like the “Captain Underpants” books, are undoubtedly comics and sold as “comics” with a wink). Not that I even have a problem with searing, scatological juvenile nihilism.

But because… because…

“From where?” my daughter would ask.

I couldn’t tell, and the stupidest of reasons: I hadn’t read a “Dog Man” book, and I hadn’t yet realized that “Dog Man” books like “Dog Man: The Musical” were transcendental children’s culture. , is still at a low level. “From where?” In fact, this is a mantra of the books as well as the musical, which pauses for a minute as a young cat (L’il Petey) repeatedly asks an old cat (Petey): “Why?” “Not enough answers,” adult Petey stutters, which leads to more reasons. Refusing to accept a company line is a solid lesson.

So lesson No. 1: Musical theater is weird entertainment.

Lesson number 2: Question authority (especially parents).

Pilkey’s creation is so alive with off-handed, underlined musings about how to create and stay curious that I wasn’t surprised to see this headline in the trade publication School Library Journal: “Is there a looming Dog Man crisis?” Author – 12. Noting that “Dog Man” book “Dog Man: Red Shredder” arrives on March 19, he feared the rise of school library-targeting legislation and bureaucratic book purchasing committees could lead to libraries without new libraries. The book “Dog Man” that you might not think of if you are of a certain age. But the author also writes civics lessons for children. (In fact, there are stories of school libraries holding raffles for the honor of being the first to purchase a new “Dog Man” book.)

Lesson number 3: Adults are afraid of things they don’t understand.

For example, when I ask my daughter what she thinks “Dog Man: The Musical” One of the first things he said was that until now he had never considered male characters to be played by women or vice versa. He assumed that 80-HD (or, subtly, “ADHD”), a “Dogman” robot character, should be played by a man. He also assumed that L’il Petey should be played by a man. But in one scene, L’il Petey (played by L.R. Davidson with a gleeful glee that makes Kristin Chenoweth look like Darth Vader) climbs into the 80-HD cockpit; If you’re a freshman, it breaks down gender assumptions.

Lesson number 4: Gender-blind casting isn’t that hard.

Moreover, my daughter realized that there are some limitations when it comes to adapting a book for the stage. So, one of the most beloved jokes in all of the Dog Man books, Flip-o-Ramas (basically, quickly flipping the drawings on two pages back and forth to create an illusion of movement), can’t be done. But the show is irreverent enough to stop completely for a moment and attempt to recreate the magic of the flipbook for an audience of children and their parents, and the actors gradually realize that experiencing live theater is different from the normal theater experience. After the act of sitting down and reading a printed book, they shrug their shoulders and move on.

This is one of Dog Man’s best lessons overall.


“Dog Man: The Scarlet Shedder” by author and illustrator Dav Pilkey (Graphix, March 2024).

Lesson number 5: Embrace creative limitations.

The main aesthetic of the Dog Man books and the musical (and possibly the recently announced animated movie coming from DreamWorks next year) is raw and happy. The image appears to belong to a seven-year-old child, full of stray signs and scratched words. The stage show continues its handcrafted spirit with its backdrops and props — the 80-HD is a large exercise ball outfitted with long accordion tube hoses. Misunderstandings are evident in the dialogues here and there; This is a nice approximation of the book series’ penchant for typos; It’s so creative that even children suspect something is wrong.

If you’re wondering what “Dogman” is about by now, that’s also an extrapolation of the narrative. This is also a way to describe a child’s ability to instantly come up with a coherent story. Fans of the long-running “That’s Weird, Grandma” shows at the Neo-Futurists Theater in Andersonville — known for squeezing the outlandish thoughts of its child audience into inspired frenzy — will get the gist: A cop and his dog got blown up. With a bomb, so surgeons fuse the dog’s head to the cop’s body, creating Dog Man, who fights an evil cat (Petey) who wants to create evil clones. There is also a cyborg fish. Also buildings that come to life and attack everyone. Also, there are notes of empathy, abandonment, and acceptance somewhere – all evident without once being conveyed as a lesson.

Dog Man’s adventures are actually stories told by a pair of fifth graders named George and Harold. Sincere, heart-warming lessons are anathema. No, no: Poops, farts and boogers; They’re the real heart of the Dog Man stories, packed into puny titles like “Fetch-22,” “For Whom the Ball Rolls” and “Twenty Thousand Fleas Under the Sea.” The secret is that physical books, the musical (adapted from “A Tale of Two Kitties”) – it all seems doable if you’re not constrained by things like taste and common sense.

My point is, I’ve made peace with the Dog Man.

He’s a good kid.



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