The audience is sure to smile when puppies and kids take the limelight April 20 in "101 Dalmatians KIDS" at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith.

The 2 p.m. show at the Echols Conference Center will be performed by Academy Kidz, a theatrical group in the Academy of the Arts which is made up of kindergarten through second-grade students. Admission is $5 from the UAFS Box Office at 479-788-7300 or at the door.

Director Shannon Stoddard of Fort Smith said the children never cease to amaze her.

"They may be young, but they pick up on the dance steps and music so quickly," Stoddard said. "I love teaching this age group because they have no inhibitions. They are perfectly comfortable looking silly on stage, acting like a dog and wagging their tails. They are just so adorable, they can’t help but make you smile."

"101 Dalmatians KIDS" is the story of canine parents Pongo and Perdita, who are happily raising their Dalmatian puppies until villain Cruella de Vil plots to steal them for a new fur coat. Action increases when all the dogs of London proceed with a plan to rescue the stolen puppies.

Stoddard said she is enjoying working with her "bad guys" in the production.

"I have Izabelle Simonian playing Cruella de Vil and Dawson Calvillo and Evan Law as her henchmen Horace and Jasper," said Stoddard. "These three actors truly embrace the silly and go over the top trying to be evil and play up those comedic moments."

In addition to the April 20 performance, the Academy also presents the show before various community groups, according to Dr. Rosilee Walker Russell of Fort Smith, executive director of the Academy.

"The Academy seeks to be a leader in the visual and performing arts in our community," said Russell. "Participating in what the Academy offers gives children and teens an opportunity to make a connection to the arts and to one another. It’s just a great place for them to explore their talents."

The cast includes Lenah Wheatley of Greenwood and Laci Cox of Hackett.

The Academy of the Arts at UAFS provides a curriculum of activities geared to children and teens and currently offers a preschool MusikGarten program, art classes for elementary-age children, private music lessons and music theory classes, as well as instrumental, choral and theatre programs.

Other upcoming Academy productions include "Singin’ in the Rain" on May 4-5 and "Once Upon a Mattress" on May 17-19. The Academy also has an art exhibit scheduled for May 10 and end-of-year concerts on May 6, 10 and 21.

For more information on the Academy, contact Russell at 479-788-7546.