“How are they going to get 101 Dalmatians on stage?” a little boy asked his mum on the way into the theatre.

“I think they will probably just have one, otherwise there would be poop all over the stage,” his mum replied.

It was the question many were asking - how do you make a production of 101 Dalmatians on stage with that many dogs?

It was a tough decision for the director Tessa Walker too - should she use children dressed up as dogs? But then that would have required several teams of young actors - which she described as a logistical headache. A film projection was another option but again dismissed it because it wasn’t her area of expertise.

In the end she turned to puppet designer Jimmy Grimes, who has worked on the National Theatre’s War Horse, to create Dalmatians Pongo and Missis, their puppies and a collection of other dogs and a couple of cats.

101 Dalmatians at Birmingham Rep

The result is stunning - OK so we don’t ever see 101 Dalmatians (and yes we were all counting them) but what you get are dozens of beautiful lifelike puppets, each one controlled by an actor to provide their voices but also to make them move in a convincingly canine way.

The opening scene is joyous - with dogs and their lookalike owners going for a walk in the park. There was a cute Scottie dog, an Afghan Hound, a pug and an adorable Chihuahua, which got the most ahhs from the audience.

Gloria Onitiri as Cruella de Vil

The story, written by Dodie Smith and made most famous by Disney, is a simple one - loving couple Mr and Mrs Dearly have two beautiful Dalmatian dogs who are expecting puppies.

Along comes evil Cruella de Vil, a school acquaintance of Mrs Dearly, who will do anything for another fur coat. She has her heart set on a Dalmatian one and enlists the help of her husband and two bad men to try and get one!

When the pups go missing Pongo and Missis use the local dog network to try and find them.

101 Dalmatians
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Cruella’s dramatic entrance is cleverly done - her car is seen in the distance as a model flashing down a road in the background.

As she arrives on stage her speeding vehicle is portrayed by actors each holding parts of the car - with ingenious touches including fluffy dice and smoking exhaust pipe.

Gloria Onitiri makes a wonderfully evil Cruella, her voice is stunning and I winced when she sang about how to kill the puppies in brutal detail.

Tessa Walker, who brought us an equally beautiful puppet led production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe two years ago, has triumphed again with this clever show using plenty of puppet trickery to bring the story alive.

Gloria Onitiri as Cruella de Vill in 101 Dalmatians

Runs until January 13.