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‘The Perfect Dog’ is at Laguna Playhouse

By Chris Trela
Newport Beach Indy

What is the perfect dog?

“The Perfect Dog” runs Jan. 17-19 at the Laguna Playhouse.

In this case, “The Perfect Dog” is a charming musical based on the equally charming children’s book by noted actor John O’Hurley, who starred in the Laguna Playhouse production of “Peter Pan and Tinker Bell” last December.

The Laguna Playhouse Youth Theatre presents “The Perfect Dog” Jan. 17-19. Inspired by O’Hurley’s book, “The Perfect Dog” features music and lyrics by David Abbinanti (Broadway’s “Saturday Night Fever” and “Ring of Fire”) and a book by Jill Abbinanti (TV’s “Law & Order”).

John O’Hurley’s children’s book “The Perfect Dog” is the inspiration for the Laguna Playhouse youth theatre’s latest show.

The play is directed by Dylan Russell, the Laguna Playhouse’s new Director of Youth Theatre, Education and Outreach.

“I am excited to be here and be part of this program,” said Russell during a phone interview this week. “I started in August, but this is my first show to direct for the Youth Theatre, and I am so excited about it.”

Russell said she was selecting which shows to fill out the Youth Theatre season, and “The Perfect Dog” was the perfect show to present to tie in to the mainstage season, since O’Hurley has just been in a play there, and is returning to Laguna Playhouse this spring with his one-man show.

O’Hurley’s book “The Perfect Dog” is a short read with plenty of pictures, so how do you translate that into a 70-minute musical?

“We have a plot, per se,” explained Russell. “They took the book and encapsulated it in one song about what is the perfect dog? They created the story around the essence of that song.”

According to Russell, the main character, Sam, is a 12-year-old girl who is a fan of Ideal Ida, a media star whom Sam wants to emulate. Sam leans that Ideal Ida will be judging a local dog contest, so Sam sets out to find the perfect dog, overlooking her own dog who is not so perfect. Not finding a perfect dog, Sam sets about transforming her dog, Max, into a perfect dog.

“While this is going on, Sam’s mother is trying to make Sam’s father healthier by amending his diet, but she soon realizes she is actually making him more miserable,” said Russell. “Sam sees she is doing the same thing to Max. It’s great to strive for perfectionism, but people are perfect just the way they are. You don’t have to try and make them over. It’s a wonderful message about being accepting of yourself and others. Like the book says, the perfect dog is right next to you. The authors really captured the essence of the book and created a wonderful plot that really takes it to the next level. It’s absolutely adorable.”

John O’Hurley’s children’s book “The Perfect Dog” is the inspiration for the Laguna Playhouse youth theatre’s latest show.

The Youth Theater program also takes theatre to the next level for its young participants. In addition to acting on stage, a handful of future theatre pros are assigned tasks such as stage manager, light operator, and stagehand, working under the guidance of theater professionals.

“We have some fabulous students in the program, both in the spotlight and behind the scenes,” confirmed Russell. “The students do much of tech, with adult professionals with them who teach them what it’s like to professionally put on a play.”

Show times for “The Perfect Dog” are Friday at 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 1 and 5 p.m. Actor and book author John O’Hurley will be at the Friday evening performance and will host a talkback session after the show.

And for those who are curious about canine companions overshadowing the onstage actors, don’t worry—the multiple dogs in the show are portrayed by humans.

For tickets and more information, visit




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