101 Dalmatians come home to Regent's Park for 90th anniversary season

Kate Fleetwood as Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Kate Fleetwood as Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre - Credit: Oliver Rosser and Feast Creative

In Dodie Smith's The One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Pongo and Perdita live with their owners Roger and Anita in a "modest but pretty" Victorian house on the Outer Circle of Regent's Park.

The author lived for a time in nearby Dorset Square, Marylebone with her nine dalmatians, one of which was named Pongo. Now, the iconic 1956 children's novel, which was famously turned into an animated Disney movie, is coming home, with a newly commissioned musical at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre.

Running from July 12-August 28, the delayed production, written by Douglas Hodge, stars Olivier nominated Kate Fleetwood as arch baddie Cruella de Vil, and is part of the theatre's 90th anniversary season.

Timothy Sheader, artistic director since 2007, said: “We are incredibly excited to finally bring 101 Dalmatians to our stage after postponing the production twice due to the pandemic. Audiences are going to love reconnecting with this favourite story outside in Regent’s Park; the original home of Pongo and Perdi. The brand new script and music are both packed with fun and joy and I am delighted that Kate Fleetwood’s filming schedule for The Wheel of Time allows us the opportunity to work with her on creating that all time baddie, Cruella de Vil.”

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre - Credit: Archant

Based in an amphitheatre in St Mary's Gardens, the theatre opened in 1932 with a "black and white" production of Twelfth Night. Four years later, a pre-Gone With The Wind Vivien Leigh played Anne Boleyn in Henry VIII. In the intervening years, Dame Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Damian Lewis (who played Hamlet in 1994) have all performed or directed in the 1,240-seat theatre. Notable nights have also included a Golden Jubilee performance attended by The Queen, and numerous productions have transferred to the West End or scooped major awards.

Benedict Cumberbatch rehearsing for Love's Labours Lost for Regents Park Open Air Theatre in 2001

Benedict Cumberbatch rehearsing for Love's Labours Lost for Regents Park Open Air Theatre in 2001 - Credit: Archant

The 2022 season kicks off on Friday (May 13) with Legally Blonde: The Musical. Courtney Bowman takes the part of Elle Wood, originally played by Reese Witherspoon in the 2001 comedy, which follows a jilted fashionista who goes to Harvard Law School in a bid to win back her ex. With music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, the show is directed by Lucy Moss, best known as co-creator of the hit musical Six.

Bowman played Anne Boleyn in the poppy feminist take on Henry VIII's wives, as well as originating the role of Fatimah in Everyone's Talking About Jamie.

Courtney Bowman as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre.

Courtney Bowman as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. - Credit: Michael Wharley  & Feast Creative

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The season rounds off with a new take on Sophocles' Antigone (September 3-24) by Barber Shop Chronicles creator, playwright and poet Inua Ellams. Other performances throughout the summer include stand-up shows by Daniel Kitson, Gavin Osborn and Tim Key; Improvised Jane Austen with Austentatious; two comedy fundraisers in aid of food bank charity The Trussell Trust; Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster by Battersea Arts Centre's Beatbox Academy; and Luna Cinema screenings of Star Wars A New Hope and West Side Story.

All bookings from openairtheatre.com/