The three theatrical creatives behind Dog Man: The Musical each grew up around theatre. Now, they’re joining forces to bring the heroic story of Dog Man to the stage for a new generation of theatregoers at the Kirk Douglas Theatre this season—and invite everyone to join them along the way.
Dog Man: The Musical is a hilarious and heartwarming new production following the chronicles of Dog Man, who, with the head of a dog and the body of a policeman, loves to fight crime and chew on the furniture. But while trying his best to be a good boy, can he save the city from Flippy the cyborg fish and his army of Beasty Buildings? And will George and Harold finish their show before lunchtime?
“It’s very swashbuckling,” said Brad Alexander, the composer of Dog Man: The Musical, of the show. “It never stops moving and I think that is a refreshing thing for a musical.”
Alexander and Lyricist Kevin Del Aguila approached Dog Man: The Musical with a variety of styles in mind to create a contemporary pop-rock score. One particular challenge, Del Aguila said, was that the creator of the Dog Man series, Dav Pilkey, insisted that the titular character not speak or sing—he has the head of a dog, after all.
Alexander and Del Aguila have collaborated before, writing the scores for the adaptations of Click, Clack, Moo; the Emmy Award-winning PBS show Peg+Cat; and, most recently, Pilkey’s Cat Kid Comic Club. But the two have their own musical careers as well, with Alexander writing music for See Rock City & Other Destinations and Misty Makes it Better, and Del Aguila writing Altar Boyz and musical adaptations of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Madagascar.
“[Del Aguila] is a masterful architect,” Alexander said of his colleague. “He laid a blueprint that we really followed for Dog Man: The Musical.” The duo was joined by Dog Man: The Musical Director and Choreographer Jen Wineman, who, Alexander said was the “captain of the Dog Man ship.”
Wineman said she often finds herself directing and choreographing work that some people might consider unproducible. “When I learned I would have to stage a scene in which a tiny kitten in a robot suit fights a bunch of skyscrapers...brought to life by an evil fish...that made complete sense to my creative brain.”
Pilkey is known for his zany illustrated children’s books filled with humor and heart. The creators behind the musical adaptation hoped to bring the same spirit when telling the story onstage. Wineman said that she didn’t simply want to recreate the books on stage, but rather, to use her theatrical toolkit to make a production that would truly feel as though George and Harold, the musical’s main characters, had created it.
Wineman also feels Pilkey’s values as a writer are in line with her own creative philosophy. “His whole goal as a writer is to spread both literacy and kindness. I resonated immediately with those values because part of my purpose as a theatre maker is to encourage curiosity, and to spread love and kindness through comedy,” she said.
This energy radiates beyond the theatre’s walls as well. Wineman was surprised to learn just how expansive and dedicated the Dog Man community is after the musical debuted. In almost every city Dog Man: The Musical has played, she has been tagged in many social media posts of fan art celebrating the specific production and casts—from all ages.
All three creatives feel that family-friendly theatre is not that different from any other show. “You can’t curse as much,” Del Aguila said. “I never aim to write a show for children, I just try to write a good show.”
Wineman had a similar approach as a director and choreographer. “I wanted to create something that was an awesome show that kids and adults alike will love,” she said.
TheaterWorksUSA, the producer of the production, is known for approaching onstage storytelling for families in this way. The company hopes to “produce high caliber, engaging theatre that fosters an appreciation for the art form amongst expansive audiences, giving all generations something to enjoy.”
Wineman also echoed this sentiment when speaking of the company’s work. “TheaterWorks doesn’t talk down to kids in their productions, and we needed to reflect that,” she said. “Kids are smart—if you respect them and their imaginations, they will feel it.”
The creatives hope audiences will walk away feeling inspired and joyful. “If [audiences] can walk out [feeling] tickled emotionally and feeling free to be themselves... then mission accomplished,” Alexander said.
Wineman hopes it also inspires young audiences to be creative on their own. “The fact that George and Harold...create the musical as its unfolding, hopefully, [audiences] will go home and feel like they can be creative and make their own imaginary worlds.”
Del Aguila agrees, “Just as the Dog Man books help get kids excited about reading, I hope the musical inspires them to become life-long theatergoers. Maybe they’ll even go home and perform the show for their cats.”