Photo by Joan Marcus

Disclaimer: Yes, I am a whole heartedly unashamed dog lover and cannot be held responsible for my bias in the following 'Show of the Week' article.

Perhaps the best canine actor I have ever seen on stage is the gloriously infectious Annaleigh Ashford (with Bruiser from 'Legally Blonde - The Musical' coming a close second). The Tony Award-winning actress is truly delightful and side-splittingly funny in the simple, feel-good comedy Sylvia, currently playing at Broadway's Cort Theatre through to 3 January 2016.

A.R. Gurney's play first premiered off-Broadway as a Manhattan Theatre Club production at New York City Center's Stage I in 1995 and starred Sarah Jessica Parker as Sylvia. Fast forward twenty years later and the comedy is finally getting its Broadway premiere.

The gimmick of a woman playing a dog on stage threatens to become thin and tedious after a while, but not in this production. Ashford's performance coupled with the evolving function of Sylvia becoming the "other woman" in the relationship between the play's other principals - Greg (Matthew Broderick) and Kate (Julie White) - give the piece just the right amount of depth to carry it merrily through its 90 minute duration. Thanks to some clever costume choices by Ann Roth, Sylvia is gradually portrayed less and less like a stray dog and more and more like a humanised, sultry mistress, as the cracks grow deeper in Greg and Kate's Manhattan home.

Matthew Broderick, for some reason, seemingly employs the same tranquilised demeanour and voice in every Broadway production he takes part in. I am happy to report that this just happens to fit the character of Greg better than other roles in past productions. His onstage connection with Annaleigh Ashford does manage to maintain a genuine chemistry and the pair share some lovely moments throughout. Hats off to Robert Sella too for bringing in even more comedy with all three characters of the supporting cast - a man, a woman, and an androgynous Leslie).

At the end of the day though, Ashford is the pulling power behind this production and most audience members, including myself, leave the theatre chuckling about her depiction of all those canine habits and mannerisms we all know and love. Her best impressions of man's best friend are certainly worth the visit!

Before the show begins, be sure to tweet a photo of your own pooch using the hashtag #WeLoveSylvia to see your pet make its Broadway debut projected onto the stage at the Curtain Call!

Click here for tickets to Sylvia, which is booking through to 3 January 2016 at Broadway's Cort Theatre.

- by Tom Millward

Photo by Joan Marcus
Matthew Broderick & Annaleigh Ashford in Sylvia
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