Faye Tozwer as Cruella De Ville in 101 Dalmatians - Photo courtesy Norwich Theatre

The famous tale of dotty dogs and a dastardly villain determined to turn them into outerwear is brought energetically to life in this revamped musical adaptation.

This touring production at Norwich Theatre Royal is based on a version that debuted in 2022 rather than the 1961 Disney film or other interpretations but the basic tale will be familiar to most.

Couple Tom (Samuel Thomas) and Danielle (Jessie Elland) meet through their Dalmatians. The dogs’ progeny are targeted by the evil Cruella De Vil – in this version a catwalk designer – who covets the litters’ skin to add to her collection of real fur fashions.

Cast of 101 Dalmatians - Photo courtesy Norwich Theatre
Cast of 101 Dalmatians – Photo courtesy Norwich Theatre

It’s easy to spot the star of the show in this version: Faye Tozer decisively casts off her Steps shadow to give a blistering performance. From the opening notes of her debut song Animal Lover she dominates the stage, with perfect vocals and a delicious line in cackles and evil asides.

Close behind are the dogs, portrayed here through dozens of puppets. Pongo and Perdi are both animated and sung by Linford Johnson and Emma Thornett respectively; it’s a little disconcerting at first, not knowing whether to look at the singing dog or the person controlling them, but their performances quickly push you to accept the set up.

The puppies, and several other animals beside, are also present in puppet form, with the ensemble keeping them darting around the stage – especially as they come up against Cruella’s henchmen. Charles Brunton and Danny Hendrix bring panto comedy vibes to these roles, rather than any proper menace – this is a family show after all.

And it is truly for the whole family. The book and songs have mild peril and sentimentality to keep the kids happy along with pinches of satire to appeal to the adults, including a cameo for a Boris lookalike and cheeky songs like What The Bleep.

There are a couple of overlong scenes – the opening number doesn’t add much to the story, and A Thousand Kisses misses its chance to add death in favour of pure sentimentality – but overall director Bill Buckhurst’s keeps things well focused and entertaining.

Overall the show has a zingy, jaunty spirit that makes it a treat to watch, especially with Tozer’s standout appearance at its centre. Top barks.