John Tartaglia- Helmed BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE Reading in the Works
As BroadwayWorld previously announced, Gerald Goehring, Michael F. Mitri and Dorothy Berloni are developing BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, a new Broadway musical based on the popular 2000 novel by Kate DeCamillo. Casting for a developmental reading is currently underway, with the reading set to take place in early March. This is set to be followed by an out of town engagement and Broadway production, the timing of which will be confirmed at a later date.
The creative team for BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE will include Duncan Sheik (music), Tony and Grammy Award Winner for Spring Awakening; Nell Benjamin (lyrics and book) Tony Nominee for Legally Blonde; John Tartaglia (Director) Tony Nominee for Avenue Q; and, Bill Berloni (Animal Director) a 2011 Tony Honor recipient. Taran, an Irish Wolfhound, has been cast in the title role of “Winn-Dixie,” trained by Broadway’s foremost animal trainer, Bill Berloni.
BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE is the first Broadway musical starring a live dog as the central character. Using a working draft completed by the creative team, the show will be developed in workshop form integrating a live animal into the story and music.
Bill Berloni expressed his inspiration to bring BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE to the stage: “It has always amazed me the reaction animals have on an audience. My theory is we all know anything onstage is an extension of reality. We love when actors go up on lines and become real. We love seeing two partners in real life play characters onstage. So when a dog or cat comes onstage, our collective reality is ‘Wait a minute, you can't get an animal to act, what is it going to do?’ And it brings the audience closer into the piece. While you can create animals as main characters in film, it has never been tried onstage.”
BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE tells the story of lonely young girl who moves to Florida with her preacher father. She goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket and comes out with a large stray dog who helps her rekindle an almost lost relationship with her father.
Duncan Sheik (Music) is a multiple Tony-Award winning creator. His musical, Spring Awakening, won a total of 9 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Orchestrations and Best Direction of a Musical. Sheik began his professional career playing for other acts, including Liz and Lisa (with Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell), and played on His Boy Elroy's 1993 album. His 1996 debut album for Atlantic was certified Gold and spawned the #16 hit single "Barely Breathing" in the United States, which remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-setting 55 straight weeks. It also enjoyed lengthy stays on Billboard's Adult Contemporary and Adult Top 40 charts where it reached #2. In 2002, Sheik made a brief commercial comeback with the album Daylight, including success with the singles "On A High" and "Half-Life". Sheik composed original music for a New York Shakespeare Festival production of Twelfth Night, which opened July 21, 2002, at the Delacorte Theater. In 2003, he portrayed Bobby Darin in an episode of the television series "American Dreams". He also composed the score for the 2004 film A Home at the End of the World, including two original songs. His fifth album, White Limousine, was released on January 24, 2006, on the Zoe Records label. The first single released from the album was the title track. The original cast recording album for Spring Awakening, released in December 2006, received the Grammy Award in 2008 for Best Musical Show Album. On January 27, 2009, Duncan released Whisper House, his first new studio album since 2006 and first release under his new deal with RCA Records on their RCA Victor imprint. This marked Duncan's first full length album on a major label since 2002's Daylight. He also composed the music for the Musical adaption of American Psycho.
Nell Benjamin (Book and Lyrics) is a Tony-nominated artist for Best Original Score for her lyrics in the hit Broadway show Legally Blonde. Prior to that she won the 2003 Jonathan Larson Foundation grant, Nell is the proud recipient of the 2003 Kleban Foundation Award for lyrics. Nell wrote lyrics for the musical Sarah, Plain And Tall (music by Laurence O'Keefe), which began as a children's musical for Theatreworks/USA, ran Off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theater, and was developed into a full-length musical for general audiences at the 2003 Eugene O'Neill Music Theater Conference. The full-length version of Sarah was selected for the National Alliance for Musical Theater's 2003 conference. Meanwhile the children's version of Sarah continues to tour the country; a CD of the Lortel production is available from ShowBiz records. Nell also wrote lyrics for The Mice, one of three short musicals produced as 3hree by Harold Prince at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia, where it won the Barrymore Award for outstanding overall musical. 3hree was later produced at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles, where it was nominated for an Ovation Award. Nell continues her happy collaboration with award-winning composer Laurence O'Keefe. They are again working with Theatreworks/USA, writing book, music and lyrics for Cam Jansen And The Curse Of The Emerald Elephant, based on the popular series of children's books., They are also working on their new musical about love, jealousy and violence at a Renaissance Faire, tentatively titled Huzzah! and on several original movie musicals. Nell is writing the libretto to an original opera with composer Michael Roth, and has completed her first play.
Bill Berloni (Animal Director) William Berloni's Broadway animal training credits include the original Sandy in Annie, Camelot with Richard Burton, Frankenstein, The First, Alice In Wonderland, Oliver, Anything Goes (at Lincoln Center), Nick And Nora, La Bete, The Wiz, the 20th and 30th Anniversary revivals of Annie, the Madison Square Garden production of The Wizard Of Oz, Dinner At Eight (at Lincoln Center), Gypsy with Bernadette Peters, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Woman In White, Awake And Sing, The Lieutenant Of Inishmore, Legally Blonde The Musical, Joe Turner’s Come And Gone and The Royal Family. He also trained a dog for Susan Stroman’s ballet Double Feature at the New York City Ballet. Mr. Berloni has also trained animals for hundreds of Off-Broadway shows, including working at the New York Shakespeare festival on nine different productions, Regional Theaters, Tours, Movies and Television shows. His last film was Charlie Wilson’s War directed by Mike Nichols and starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. He just wrapped filming on a new film entitled Someday This Pain Will Be Useful starring Marcia Gay Hardon, Lucy Lu and Ellen Burstyn. His most recent television shows include “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” “Sesame Street,” “Johnny And The Sprites,” “Between The Lions,” “Reading Rainbow,” “Oobi,” Animal Planet’s “Wild On The Set,” “Dogs 101,” “Outragous Animals” as well as featured stories on the Today Show, CBS Evening News and CBS Sunday Morning. As an author he has written Sandy The Autobiography Of A Star published by Simon and Schuster, Doga by Chronicle Books and his latest book Broadway Tails is published by Globe Pequot Press and available now in stores and online. Mr. Berloni has received the ASPCA Humanitarian Award and the American Humane Association Craven Award for his work on Broadway. Mr. Berloni, his wife Dorothy and their daughter Jenna, live on a farm in Connecticut with twenty-three dogs, four cats, four horses, a pony, two llamas, and a miniature donkey. Mr. Berloni is currently the Director of Animal Behavior for the Humane Society of New York and is involved in helping animals that need homes. www.theatricalanimals.com.
Kate DiCamillo (Original Author) is a Newbery Medalist and multiple New York Times best-selling author. Her books include Because Of Winn-Dixie (her very first published novel, which became a runaway bestseller and won a Newbery Honor), The Tiger Rising (National Book Award Finalist), The Magician's Elephant, The Miraculous Journey Of Edward Tulane (#1 New York Times bestseller) and The Tale Of Despereaux (Newbery Medal; inspired an animated adventure from Universal Pictures). She has written for a wide range of ages, including a comical early-chapter-book series about Mercy Watson (a "porcine wonder" with an obsession for buttered toast), as well as a luminous holiday picture book, Great Joy.
John Tartaglia (Director) Executive producer and Emmy-nominated star of Disney Channel’s “Johnny and the Sprites” (now airing worldwide), John made his Broadway debut originating Princeton and Rod in Avenue Q (Tony Award nomination). Most recently on Broadway as Pinocchio, The Magic Mirror, Puppeteer in Shrek, The Musical and Lumiere in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. TV: “Sesame Street” (12 seasons, starting at age 16) and several voiceovers. Other theatre: Carnival (City Center Encores!), Carnegie Hall and NY Philharmonic concerts.
Jerry Goehring (Producer) is a Grammy® nominated producer and is currently a managing partner of Patriot Productions www.PatriotonBroadway . Mr. Goehring has produced theatre for over twenty years, including as Executive Director of both the Tony Award-winning National Theatre of the Deaf and the critically-acclaimed Connecticut Children’s Theatre, reaching well over one million inner-city children. He has produced over sixty national and international tours and sit-downs, including The Velveteen Rabbit with Bea Arthur, Oh, Figaro, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, The Giving Tree, The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, Sleepy Hollow, Definitely Doris (London, Boston, LA), Raisin Cane and Frankenstein, a New Musical Off-Broadway. Mr. Goehring is currently the lead producer of the new pre-Broadway musical based on the Warner Brothers classic movie A Christmas Story www.AChristmasStorytheMusical.com and the upcoming new musical series Patty’s Green www.PattysGreen.com with Patty Carver, Jack Klugman and Ed Begley, Jr. which will be developed for internet broadcasts, concerts and live presentations. He is currently executive director of the 776-seat Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts in Fairfield, CT presenting and producing over 300 events a year.
Dorothy Berloni (producer) worked for many years in Producer and General Manager’s offices in New York. Those positions led to a job with the League of American Theatres and Producers as assistant to the Director of Marketing. In 1994, she moved to central Connecticut with the position of executive assistant to the CEO of The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, Connecticut’s premier performing arts center. In 1996, Dorothy joined the company of the 20th Anniversary of Annie as the child guardian so she could travel with her husband, Broadway’s foremost animal trainer, Bill Berloni, who trained Sandy for the show. Dorothy returned to The Bushnell in 1998, as the coordinator of the Bushnell Children’s Theatre. Dorothy took over the position of Director of Programs, responsible for all the shows presented on The Bushnell stages and netting the organization multi-million dollar revenue each season. She made Hartford an “A” tour city, when shows like Moving Out, Hairspray and Wicked played the Bushnell within the first few months of going out on tour. She worked with Disney to bring The Lion King to Hartford, a major engagement not just for the Bushnell, but for the entire city. She negotiated the contracts not only for the Broadway Series, but also for the Family and Off-Broadway Series which she created, the Showcase and Children’s series. Dorothy was the liaison to the local arts organizations, including the Hartford Symphony, CT Opera and Dance CT. She was the driving force behind Mikhail Baryshnikov premiering his solo show Solos with Piano or Not at The Bushnell. She now works with her husband, and on various theatrical projects with Jerry Goehring.
Mike Mitri (producer) is also is a principal partner of Patriot Productions, LLC www.PatriotOnBroadway.com, which was founded to acquire, develop and produce new theatrical projects for the national and international markets. Patriot’s current projects include the new musical A Christmas Story, the Musical www.AChristmasStoryTheMusical.com, which had successful tryouts at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre (2009) and at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater (2010), as well as the new play Two Point Oh www.Two.PointOh.Info. Patriot also is in the process of developing a revival of Rodgers and Hart’s Babes in Arms. Mike also was a producer of the new musicAl Frankenstein www.FrankensteinTheMusical.com, which premiered Off-Broadway at 37 Arts Theatre in Fall 2007.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride/WM Photos