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Salt Lake Acting Company's 'Art Dog' is a woofing good time

“ART DOG,” through Dec. 23, Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North (801-363-7522 or; running time: 45 minutes (no intermission)

SALT LAKE CITY — With a “dog leg, dog leg” and a good old-fashioned tail wag or two, the audience at Friday night’s performance of “Art Dog” eagerly participated in pre-show dance instruction to help get them in the “woof” mood.

“Art Dog” comes in the seventh season since Salt Lake Acting Company began offering professional children’s theater, and the kids and staff seem to love it.

Based on the book by Thacher Hurd, “Art Dog” is about a dog who is a security guard at the Dogopolis Museum of Art. Every day, he enjoys looking at the works of art — especially the beautiful “Mona Woofa,” by the great painter Leonardo Dog Vinci. When the painting goes missing, Art Dog, a painter in his own right who takes to the streets at night to decorate the city, is on the case to help find the missing masterpiece.

Directed by Penelope Caywood, this production is bright, quick-moving and only 45 minutes long — perfect for snagging the fast-moving attention of its young audience members and introducing them to the wonderful art form of live theater.

The administrative staff greets the restless crowd at the start and explains the difference between TV or movies and live theater. The kids then understand that they need to be quiet and listen but, more importantly, they need to enjoy.

That they did.

There are plenty of farcical moments in the show to keep the kids entertained. They laugh heartily at the pratfalls and the high jinks of the less-than-skilled robbers.

The four-person cast (Alexis Baigue, Olivia Custodio, Jaten Lee McGriff and Jenessa Bowen) works up a sweat — noticed by many young audience members sitting toward the front (“He’s really sweaty!”) — as its members chase, jump, leap and dance their way through not only the show but also numerous costume changes.

Beyond the mugging for the kids, however, adults may appreciate the nods to actual works of art, snippets of classical music (“Clair de Lune” and “Rhapsody in Blue”) and a few jokes that the kids seemed to miss — like the dog dragging its behind along the carpet (if you’ve owned a dog, you know).

“Art Dog” is a fun, quick evening or afternoon out with the kiddos and a great chance to get them away from their gadgets to go see what all the woofs are about.

Erica Hansen was the theater editor at the Deseret News for more than three years. An area performer, she was also the original host of the radio program "Showtune Saturday Night."