PENINSULA SPOTLIGHT: Key City ruffs up audience with ‘BARK! The Musical’

PORT TOWNSEND — It’s a community unleashed: Sam the streetwise mutt, King the elder in love with television’s “Lassie,” Boo the sock-aholic spaniel, Rocks the Jack Russell puppy, Golde the bulldog with the left-alone blues. And, hitting the high notes, is perhaps the top dog and diva, Chanel.

They’re all together at Deena’s Doggie Daycare in “BARK! The Musical,” opening tonight for a three-week run at the Key City Playhouse.

“The performances are virtuosic,” proclaims Linda Dowdell, the New Yorker-turned-Olympic Peninsula resident who is the show’s musical director. Sara and Jim Wordsworth, friends of Dowdell from Manhattan, are portraying Golde and Sam, while four Port Townsend singers, from a teenager to a veteran voice teacher, fill out the cast of Key City Public Theatre’s summer musical.

“BARK!” is a far cry from the troupe’s other summertime production: “Macbeth,” that Shakespeare tragedy closing this weekend.

That play, starring Charlie Bethel and Amanda Steurer as the ambitious and murderous Macbeths, takes the stage in Chetzemoka Park at Blaine and Jackson streets at 6 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday.

With concurrent “BARK!” and Bard, “I do try to keep things in balance,” said Denise Winter, Key City’s artistic director.

The other night, the musical’s cast went as a pack to see “Macbeth,” and when introduced to the audience, “they gave a big group bark,” she reported.

Not only is this a feel-good musical — “in a year when we could use a feel-good evening,” Winter added — it’s also a story about how to find your voice.

Among these six dogs, everybody can find someone to relate to, she believes. There’s the young pup Rocks, played by Port Townsend High School senior Leah Finch, all the way to King, the senior citizen portrayed by Adam Matthew.

The dogs are diverse, and so is the music, Winter said. “That’s what’s fun about it: There’s a wonderful bluesy tune, and some very typical Broadway-musical music.

“And there’s a rap song,” plus some operatic singing by Chanel, the poodle played by Leslie Lewis.

“BARK!” is mostly a revue, with more songs than anything else — and each one expresses, via the dog, a human trait or need.

“They want food, shelter, and a little love,” said Winter, “just like us.”

Lewis, known for her singing with the Wild Rose Chorale, the Port Townsend Community Chorus and other ensembles, said her solo turn as Chanel “is particularly showy,” and quite unlike her choral work.

This production was timed perfectly, added Lewis, who also teaches private voice lessons.

“It’s nice to do shows during the summer — in this case, the ‘dog days’ of summer,” she quipped. “Once I had rehearsed a couple of the songs for my audition, I fell in love with the score.”

Also in love are the Wordsworths, Sara and Jim, who escaped the New York City heat to be in “BARK!”

“It’s rare when you get to work together,” Sara said. The couple, married six years come October, are always looking for shows they can both appear in.

This musical proved ideal, since the Wordsworths have been hearing about Port Townsend from Dowdell, the musical director for last fall’s “Here’s to the Ladies” revue at the Key City Playhouse and leader of the glee club at Port Townsend High.

“I love these six people,” Dowdell said of the current musical’s cast.

In addition to Matthew, a lifeguard at the city pool, there’s Mikaela Euro, home for the summer from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles, to play Boo in “BARK!”

Dowdell also sings the praises of the backstage crew, including set designer Don Tiller and costumer Beverly Michaelsen of Port Townsend’s Wandering Wardrobe consignment shop.

“It takes a village,” she said, “a very creative village.”

“BARK! The Musical” by David Troy Francis, with book by Mark Winkler and Gavin Geoffery Dillard, lyrics by Gavin Geoffery Dillard, Mark Winkler, Robert Schrock, Jonathan Heath and Danny Lukic, takes the stage tonight through Sept. 4 at the Key City Playhouse, 419 Washington St., Port Townsend.

Curtain is at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

Tickets are $20 Friday and Saturdays, $18 on other nights and $10 for students at all shows. Information awaits at 360-379-0195 and

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