Don't fence 'em in: Cervantes (16) and Austin (19)
By Mark Masi and Jess Platt
45th Street Theater
354 West 45th Street
There is something absolutely delicious about seeing a musical that makes your heart flutter and your toes tap, but it is a genuine surprise to find your tail wagging as well. The cast of charscalex100 Tails may feel as though they have big shoes to fill, what with the inevitable comparison to charscalex100 Cats, yet the production, with original music by Mark Masi and Jess Platt, looks as though it will stand on its own hind legs just fine. The five cast members, astutely directed by Christopher Scott, undertake the task of truthfully playing canines with dignified commitment, taking time to sniff one another or scratch an ear, little nuances that heighten their collective lovability factor. The action takes place within the confines of a pound, where each of the dogs sings about the past, longing for their owners and warm beds, but the tall steel fences that line the set create a looming sense of danger and abandonment for the endearing pups. Bethe Austin, who plays Mildred, an older dog, sings an especially loving tribute to her elderly mistress. Miguel Cervantes, as Ozzie, a young tramp from the streets, croons about cold nights and angry words. Their stories serve to comfort one another, and their enthusiasm for life can rub off on even the most cynical of humans: I was never much of a dog lover, but I couldn't help falling in love with those puppy-dog eyes.