The year 1956 was full of momentous occasions. Elvis Presley’s first hit single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” was released; the first half-hour serial, “As the World Turns,” began on CBS and author Dodie Smith’s book 101 Dalmatians was published.
Most people probably don’t realize that someone other than Disney® had anything to do with 101 Dalmatians. The animated version was released in 1961 and the latest version starring Glenn Close was released in 1996.
In 2009, 101 Dalmatians The Musical began a new venture based on the book by Smith. CAWLM had the opportunity to speak with actor Catia Ojeda, who plays Missus, the mother dog, about this new musical and her career.
CAWLM: How did you first become involved with theater?
Ojeda: I’ve always been creatively inclined. I loved singing and playing make believe with my friends. I was in my first play when I was 13 and was hooked! I was in every play in high school, and if I wasn’t performing there, then I was involved in community theater. I went on to acting school after graduation.
CAWLM: I understand that this is a hard business. Do you find that to be true?
Ojeda: Oh, yes. It was hard back in college, and it’s still hard. But I love it! It’s a challenging career. When you’re not in a show, then you are auditioning for the next show, and you’ve got to stay in shape for those auditions, if that makes sense. You can lose your edge when you haven’t auditioned in a while.
CAWLM: Let’s talk about your role in 101 Dalmatians. You play the role of Missus, who is married to Pongo, the father dog. Has anyone else played your role?
Ojeda: Nobody else has played this role. The originality of it is all what I put into the role for the show. It’s brand new, and I really love that.
CAWLM: So anyone after you will have to try to make it different from what you do.
Ojeda: Yeah. It’s so great to be involved in a project that’s not been done before. There are lots of shows out that are revivals of past shows. To do something that’s brand new is really a huge opportunity.
CAWLM: Did you see the two Disney® versions of the movie?
Ojeda: I haven’t seen the cartoon version in a really long time. I know I saw it as a kid, and I’ve never seen the version with Glenn Close. When the directors were asked about the movies, they said don’t watch the movies, read the book. So I did. It’s a great book, too.
CAWLM: What were rehearsals like as you prepared for the show?
Ojeda: We had eight-hour days, six days a week. We started rehearsing about two months before the show opened in New York in October. We actually still have rehearsals. Since the show is new, sometimes the directors will come to a performance and want to tweak a song, a dance routine, lines. It’s definitely not boring being a part of this show!
CAWLM: Will East Lansing be your first time to Michigan?
Ojeda: Actually, we were in Detroit for the show at the Fox Theatre. That’s one of the most beautiful theatres I’ve ever been in, and I’ve been in quite a few across the country.
CAWLM: Is it a family show?
Ojeda: Yes, it’s very family-friendly. Kids love this show, and there are kids in the show. We also have 15 live dalmatians that are part of the show.
CAWLM: Wow! That’s a lot of dogs to manage.
Ojeda: Well, they do alright for themselves. They travel in their own little doggie palace. They have their own specially designed bus; they have trainers and special diets and play time. They are well taken care of, and they’re happiest dogs I’ve ever seen!