Regional Reviews: Phoenix
There isn't much of a plot, as the story simply focuses on a group of dogs as they go about their everyday routine, which mainly includes the standard canine traits of playing, partying and sleeping. These dogs are also capable of such human abilities as riding scooters and driving cars, which only adds to the comical aspect of the piece. Based on P.D. Eastman's 1961 picture book, the 2003 adaptation by Allison Gregory and Steven Dietz uses the same simple words Eastman used in his book, along with a zippy score from Michael Koerner and an abundance of good physical comedy under Andrés Alcalá's spotless direction, to deliver an hour of humor and joy.
Eastman was a protégé of Theodor Geisel and, while Go, Dog, Go! doesn't focus on the zany characters and lands that Geisel's Dr. Seuss books did, it does include identifiable characters and situations that allow children to explore simple human qualities like making friends, sharing, and the sense of surprise and adventure.
Jon Gentry leads a cast of talented actors including Caitlin Dhuse, Brynn Lewallen, Jennie Rhiner, Adam Sowards and Michael Thompson. While it's mainly an ensemble piece with only a few words spoken, Gentry's gifted comic abilities, fun double-takes, and facial expressions add an extra layer of exuberance to his many moments. The rest of the cast create unique characters, such as the rambunctious pup (Thompson), the dog who sleeps through just about everything (Sowards), and the canine who keeps showing up in larger and larger hats (Rhiner) in hopes that Gentry's MC Dog will finally like what she's wearing.
Andrés Alcalá's direction is as playful as the pups, with Caroline Wagner's upbeat and varied choreography adding to the show's jubilant nature. Aaron Jackson's vibrant and cartoony scenic designs play off the illustrations in the book and Kish Finnegan's costumes add pops of color that help identity each dog. Rob Witmer's sound design includes a nonstop stream of fun sound effects and his music direction creates some lovely sounds from the cast who excel at singing Michael Koerner's score with a series of vocal acoustics including plenty of barks and howls.
There may not be much of a plot in Go, Dog, Go!, but Childsplay's production is bright and catchy and amounts to an upbeat, fun and funny time. While the show is geared toward younger audience members, it truly is a show that will put a big smile on the faces of people of all ages. Even this middle-aged theatre critic was grinning throughout.
Go, Dog, Go! at Childsplay runs through December 23rd, 2017, at the Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe, Arizona, with performances on Saturdays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. Tickets are on sale at www.childsplayaz.org or at the Tempe Center for the Arts Box Office (480) 350-2822 (ext. 0)
Adapted by Allison Gregory and Steven Dietz from the book "Go, Dog, Go!" by P.D. Eastman