Two dozen darling kids will transform into spotted puppies in “101 Dalmatians” the musical, presented by Premier Centre for the Arts Friday through Sunday.

Two dozen darling kids will transform into spotted puppies in "101 Dalmatians" the musical, presented by Premier Centre for the Arts Friday through Sunday. Friday's show is sold out.

"101 Dalmatians" features a cast of approximately 40 kids, of which an estimated 28 are Dalmatians who'll don costumes of black bottoms and white tops spotted with black paint blotches, said director Nick Manerchia, 23, of Newark. The show is part of PCA's Children's Workshop Production, an annual program held in spring and fall for performers between the ages of 4 and 12 that blesses kids with the opportunity to be in a theater production for free.

Getting dogged out

It's the 1940s in London and the Dalmatian couple Missus and Pongo are having a sunny time with their splendid owners, the Dearlys. Things seem even brighter now that the doggie couple has welcomed a new litter to their family. But a storm is headed their way: and her name is Cruella De Vil. A dastardly dame, and sworn enemy of PETA, Cruella craves Dalmatian fur to make coats with, and she has her crusty eyes fixed on Pongo and Missus' pups.

Can Pongo and Missus prevent their children from getting dognapped by Cruella? Of course not. But the show wouldn't be an adventure without this sort of drama!

Villains-only club

Leigh Willis (cast as Cruella) is still getting used to leading a life of crime in "101 Dalmatians."

"I think it's more fun for me to be this person because if a kid gets hurt, I'm [usually] like, 'Oh, are you okay?' said Willis, 12, of Middletown. "But now I have to practice being mean to little kids, which is fun. But it's different."

Kyle Dietrich (cast as the dognapper Jasper) finds his role attractive because it forces him to do something he's not accustomed to either.

"I like it because I get to use the accent," smiled Dietrich, 10, of Middletown. "I think it's like a British accent."

Then there's Cole Cabatingan (cast as the dognapper Horace). More so than Dietrich, it's hard to take Cabatingan seriously as a baddie, since he's a baby-faced sweetheart who looks as innocent as the Dalmatians he's after. Nonetheless, the little villain loves his job.

"I like when I get to chase the puppies," said Cabatingan, 4, of Middletown.

Puppy love

While Dalmatians make up most of the show's cast, and the pups are comprised of kids mostly under the age of 9, a few roles that older kids occupy in the production are as narrators; there are four in total. Since this group is older than most of the Dalmatians, they serve as mentors to the younger kids, helping them with simple tasks like holding still during scenes.

"It's kind of fun being around the little ones, the ones younger than me, because [in my neighborhood] there's a lot of little ones that I hang out around," said Anna Holloway, 9, of Middletown, cast as Narrator Two.

Meanwhile, Lizzy Keeper (cast as Narrator Three) feels a special bond between her and the other narrators, since their roles are naturally unique. She also enjoys that her fellow narrators stand beside her throughout the production.

"I like that we're all like one big friendly bunch!" beamed Keeper, 9, of Bear.

WHAT "101 Dalmatians" the musical
WHEN 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, March 23; 7 p.m. Sunday, March 24
WHERE Premier Centre for the Arts, Anderson St., Middletown
COST $10
INFO or 378-1384