Josie Todd, J. Robert Spencer, Isabel Keating, Among Stars of Goodspeed's BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE

By: May. 30, 2019
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Josie Todd, J. Robert Spencer, Isabel Keating, Among Stars of Goodspeed's BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE

Not since Annie has a stray dog inspired such joyful noise! This summer Goodspeed Musicals will produce the heartwarming new musical Because of Winn Dixie. This touching tale based on the award-winning novel by Kate DiCamillo will run June 28 - September 1 at The Goodspeed in East Haddam, Conn.

In a Southern town filled with lost souls, a new leash on life is just around the corner when a preacher and his daughter take in a mutt named Winn Dixie. The beloved, award-winning novel about a quirky community learning to get along now sings for the first time in this uplifting new musical. Let Grammy and Tony winner Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) and Tony nominee Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde, Mean Girls) take you on a heartwarming adventure for all ages. Because of Winn Dixie is made possible in part by Updike, Kelley & Spellacy, P.C., the Lucille Lortel Foundation, Robinson + Cole and ACMT, Inc.. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Because of Winn Dixie will be Directed by John Rando and Choreographed by Chris Bailey with Animal Direction by William Berloni.

Because of Winn Dixie features Book and Lyrics by Tony and Drama Desk Award nominee Nell Benjamin. Her Broadway credits include the current hit Mean Girls and the international sensation Legally Blonde which earned an Olivier Award for Best New Musical. Her Off-Broadway and regional credits include The Explorers Club (Outer Critics Circle, Best Play); Sarah, Plain and Tall; Halftime and 3hree. Ms. Benjamin wrote additional book and lyrics for Goodspeed Musicals reimagined production of Pirates of Penzance which she co-conceived withGordon Greenberg and John McDaniel. Ms. Benjamin's upcoming musicals include Huzzah!, Life of the Party and Dave. Her numerous TV credits include Unhappily Ever After; Whoa! Sunday with Mo Rocca, The Electric Company, Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris, and Julie's Greenroom. She is a recipient of the Kleban Foundation Award and a Jonathan Larson Grant.

Music for Because of Winn Dixie is by Tony and Grammy winning composer Duncan Sheik. Mr. Sheik's Broadway credits includeSpring Awakening, and American Psycho. His Off-Broadway credits include the new musicals Alice by Heart, The Secret Life of Beesnow playing at Atlantic Theater Company and the upcoming Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice at The New Group.

Opal will be played by Josie Todd. Performing since the age of 3, a few of Josie's favorite credits include playing Molly in Annie, Monica in Freaky Friday the Musical (ECS), Gracie Shinn in The Music Man and Chip in Beauty and the Beast (Theatre Memphis).

Preacher will be played by J. Robert Spencer who originated the role of Nick Massi in the Tony and Grammy Award winning Broadway musical Jersey Boys. In 2008 Spencer originated the role of Dan Goodman in the Broadway production of Next To Normal, for which he was nominated for the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actor and nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. Other credits include the Off-Broadway production of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; Lucky Duck at The Old Globe; the US Tour of Finian's Rainbow; the original Broadway production of Side Show and the tour of The Midtown Men.

Winn Dixie will be played by Bowdie. Bill Berloni found Bowdie in 2014 when his family could no longer keep this smart, energetic dog. Bowdie made his acting debut when he was cast as the first dog to ever play Nana in Peter Pan Live on NBC. He has done twoRachel Ray commercials and he is the character Schnoodle on Elmo's World on Sesame Street. Bowdie played Grandpa in an episode of the HBO series High Maintenance, receiving glowing reviews. He played Winn Dixie in Because Of Winn Dixie at the Delaware Theatre Company in the spring of 2015 and The Alabama Shakespeare Festival in February of 2017.

Sophia Massa will play Sweetie Pie Thomas. Sophia's credits include the role of Gretl in the National Tour of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The Sound of Music and Irma in the Off-Broadway production Where Angels Fear to Tread. She played Willow in the film Welcome to Mercy.

Crystal Kellogg will play Callie Thomas. Ms. Kellogg's Broadway credits include Finding Neverland and School of Rock. In addition to performing at numerous regional theaters across the country Crystal performed in the 1st National Tours of Finding Neverlandand Kinky Boots.

Brian Michael Hoffman will play Jiggs Thomas. Hoffman has performed at theatres across the country, including Madison Square Garden, 54 Below, Sacramento Music Circus, MUNY, Maine State, Syracuse Stage, Marriott Lincolnshire, Pioneer, Ivoryton Playhouse, and Pittsburgh CLO. Off-Broadway he played Horton in the revival of Seussical. With William Berloni Theatrical Animals, Brian'sBroadway credits include Legally Blonde, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill starring Audra McDonald, The Royal Family and Bullets Over Broadway.

Stevie Dewberry will be played by Jay Hendrix whose recent credits include Matilda, Jr. and Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol(Broward Center for the Performing Arts,) and Jack in Into the Woods, Jr. (Performance Project).

Dunlap Dewberry will be played by Jamie Mann whose theater credits include the title role in Billy Elliot the Musical (Maltz Jupiter, Fulton, Palace, Company Theatre), Brett in 13 the Musical (Off-Broadway at Actor's Temple), Weiner in Camp Rolling Hills and Lord N. Taylor in Ever Happily After(NYMF). Jamie has danced with New York City Ballet in The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Harlequinade; with Alvin Ailey at the Apollo Theater; and as the Prince and Fritz in The Nutcracker at Westport Country Playhouse.

Jeanne Dewberry will be played by Kacie Sheik who has performed on Broadway, in Central Park and the West End. Kacie received a Helen Hayes nomination as Best Actress for her performance as Jeanie in the National Tour of Hair directed by Diane Paulus. Her Off-Broadway credits include playing Gypsy Rose Lee in February House at The Public Theater, directed by Davis McCallum;Songbird at 59E59 and Two River. In Las Vegas she performed in Queen's We Will Rock You (Scaramouche) and at Radio City Music Hall in The Rockettes NY Spectacular as Alice in Wonderland/Mom. She previously performed in Because of Winn Dixie at Alabama Shakespeare. Her Film/TV credits include The Code, The Last O.G., Blue Bloods, Bull, Law & Order, The Punisher and Julie and Julia.

Amanda Wilkinson will be played by Chloë Cheers who has been singing professionally since the age of 5. She has performed with Gas Lamp Theatre Players and is a soloist at The Center School's Choir. Chloë acts in on-camera commercials, voiceovers, and podcasts.

Millie Wilkinson will be played by Nicole Powell who recently performed the role of Queen Tuya in composer Stephen Schwartz'snew stage adaptation of The Prince of Egypt at Tuacahn Amphitheater. Her Broadway credits include Ragtime and Hairspray. Ms. Powell has performed in the National Tours of South Pacific and Dreamgirls. Her Off-Broadway credits include Curvy Widow, Sistas, and Next to Normal. She has performed at numerous regional theaters including Paper Mill Playhouse, Pittsburgh CLO, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Northshore Music Theatre and Maine State Music Theatre. Her Film/TV credits include Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Blue Bloods and Spike Lee's Drop Squad.

Carl Wilkinson will be played by John Edwards who was last seen in the revival of Smokey Joe's Café for which he received a Lortel Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical. He performed in the Broadway and First National Tour of Jersey Boys as Barry Belson/others and the National Tour of Hairspray as Seaweed J Stubbs. His regional credits include In the Heights at the Kennedy Center and as Jimmy Early in Dreamgirls.

David Poe will play Otis. Poe has toured the world supporting the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Tori Amos. His songs have been recorded by many Grammy-winning artists. Rolling Stone wrote of his debut album, produced by T-Bone Burnett "David Poe gives the singer-songwriter genre a much-needed jolt." Poe's TV and Film credits include Nashville, Dexter, and Scooby-Doo. He has released eight albums, scored seven films, and composed three scores for dance, including the long-running Shadowland by Pilobolus, and produced recordings for artists including Regina Spektor, Kraig Jarret Johnson, Grace Kelly and David Anders. Poe is a composer fellow of The Sundance Institute.

Isabel Keating will play Franny Block. Ms. Keating was nominated for the Tony Award and received the Drama Desk Award and the Theatre World Award for her performance as Judy Garland, starring opposite Hugh Jackman, in The Boy from Oz on Broadway, for which she was also nominated for the Drama League and Outer Critics Circle Awards. She won the Helen Hayes Award for her performance in Tom Stoppard's Indian Ink. She most recently starred on Broadway as Madame Morrible in Wicked. Prior to that, she starred with Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, F. Murray Abraham, Stockard Channing, Rupert Grint and Megan Mullally in It's Only a Play. Her other Broadway credits include Hairspray, Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, and Enchanted April. Off-Broadway she has performed at Primary Stages, Atlantic Theatre Company, Ensemble Studio Theatre and Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, among others.She has appeared across the country at such theatres as the Kennedy Center, The Old Globe, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Long Wharf, the O'Neill Center, Paper Mill Playhouse and more.

Gloria Dump will be played by Roz Ryan who has entertained audiences for more than 40 years as an actress, singer, recording artist, nightclub and concert performer. Mz. Ryan's Broadway credits include Ain't Misbehavin', Dreamgirls in the role of Effie White, A Christmas Carol, The Pajama Game, One Mo' Time, Scandalous and as Matron Mama Morton in Chicago breaking the record for longest running female lead in the history of the Broadway production. She previously played Gloria in The Alabama Shakespeare Theatre production of Because of Winn Dixie. Mz. Ryan has appeared in dozens of television and film projects as well as voiced numerous animated characters.

Ryan Halsaver will play the Townsperson. His credits include Captain Hook in the National Tour of Peter Pan 360, Baby Fat: Act 1 at La MaMa, Once at John W. Engeman Theater, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and The Drowsy Chaperone at SpeakEasy Stage Company, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at Bucks County Playhouse among others. Mackenzie Warren who performed in the Broadway revival of Cats and the National Tours of Pippin and Anything Goes will play the role of Townsperson.

The understudies for this production will be Ava Loughlin (Opal) who appeared in the Goodspeed Kids Company of last season'sOlivier!; Ben Stone-Zelman (Stevie/Dunlap) who previously appeared in the Goodspeed productions of The Will Rogers Follies as Will, Jr., Bye Bye Birdie as Randolph and in A Wonderful Life as Tommy Bailey along with Tess Santarsiero (Sweetie Pie), Veronica James(Amanda) and Bailey (Winn Dixie).

Because of Winn Dixie will be directed by John Rando. John is the Tony Award and Outer Critic's Circle Award-winning director of Urinetown, The Musical. Other Broadway credits include Gettin' the Band Back Together, On the Town , A Christmas Story The Musical, The Wedding Singer, A Thousand Clowns, and Neil Simon's The Dinner Party. He helmed the Lincoln Center/NY Philharmonic Carousel which was broadcast for Live At Lincoln Center. With City Center Encores!, he directed It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, On the Town, Damn Yankees, Face the Music, Of Thee I Sing, The Pajama Game, Do Re Mi, and Strike Up The Band. His many Off- Broadway credits include the 20th anniversary revival of David Ives's All In The Timing at Primary Stages and the 2009 Outer Critic's Circle Award for Best Musical The Toxic Avenger.

Choreography will be by Chris Bailey who returns to Goodspeed Musicals where he previously choreographed The Drowsy Chaperone in 2018 and Chasing Rainbows in 2016. Mr. Bailey's Broadway credits include the upcoming Gettin' the Band Back Together(Choreographer); Cyrano de Bergerac (Assistant Director and Movement Director); the U.S. National Tour of Evita (Associate Choreographer); How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Associate Choreographer); Promises, Promises (Associate Director and Associate Choreographer) and Cry-Baby (Assistant Choreographer). Other recent choreography credits include Jerome Robbins' Broadway for MUNY, Jerry Springer The Opera for The New Group Off Broadway, The Entertainer for London's West End,The New Yorkers for City Center Encores! and "Bigger" for the 2013 Tony Awards with Neil Patrick Harris.

The Animal Director will be William Berloni a 2011 Tony Honoree for Excellence in Theatre, recipient of the 1977 and 2013 Outer Critics Awards and the 2017 Drama League Award for Unique Contribution to the Theater. His Broadway credits include Annie (1977) to The Ferryman (2018) and 25 shows in between. Additional theater credits include hundreds of off-Broadway and regional theatre productions and the current tour of Finding Neverland. Mr. Berloni's Goodspeed Musicals credits include as Animal Trainer for Annie,Little Rascals, Annie Warbucks, Annie (20th Anniversary), Anything Goes, and Darling Grenadine. Recent television: producer and star of From Wags to Riches with Bill Berloni on Discovery Family, The Village, Mr. Robot, Power, High Maintenance, Billions, Castle Rock, The Sinner, and Sesame Street. He is the Author of Broadway Tails. All the animals he trains are rescues from shelters.

Scenic design will be by Tony Award-winner Donyale Werle whose Broadway credits include Peter and the Starcatcher (2012 Tony Award), Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (2011 Tony nomination), In Transit and Allegiance. Off-Broadway credits include The Robber Bridegroom at Roundabout, Daphne's Dive at Signature Theatre, The Legend of Georgia McBride at MCC, The Explorer's Club at MTC, Broke-ology at Lincoln Center as well as Really Rosie; Assassins; The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin; Runaways; God Bless You, Mr. Goldwater; The New Brain; Little Shop of Horrors; The Wild Party; tick, tick, BOOM!;Faust; Pump Boys and Dinettes all at City Center's Encores Off-Center and Brooklynite, Too Much Sun and The North Pool at Vineyard Theatre. In addition, Ms. Werle has designed numerous productions for regional theaters across the country

Costume design will be by Emily Rebholz. In addition to the upcoming production of Jagged Little Pill, Emily's designs can be seen in the current Broadway revival of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune and Dear Evan Hanson. ansenOther Broadway credits include Gettin' the Band Back Together, Indecent, If/Then, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. She has designed numerous Off-Broadway and regional productions as well.

Lighting Design will be by Tony Award-winner Jeff Croiter whose numerous Goodspeed credits include Cyrano, Radio Girl, Band Geeks!, The Fabulous Lipitones, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Pirates of Penzance, Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn, Me and My Girl,Happy Days ('07 and '08), The Baker's Wife and O. Henry's Lovers. Jeff has designed over a dozen Broadway productions includingBandstand, Falsettos, Holiday Inn, Disaster!, Penn & Teller On Broadway, Something Rotten!, Mothers and Sons, Peter and the Starcatcher, Newsies The Musical, The Pee-Wee Herman Show and Next Fall among others.

Projection Design will be by Olivia Sebesky. Her Broadway credits include Associate Projection Design for Motown the Musicaland the revival of Six Degrees of Separation. Her recent designs include The Jerry Springer Opera at The New Group; Me...Jane, The Dreams and Adventures of Jane Goodall at The Kennedy Center; My Paris at Long Wharf Theater and Ever After at Paper Mill Playhouse among many others.

Sound design will be by Jay Hilton who has designed countless productions at both The Terris Theatre and The Goodspeed. His work has also been heard on Broadway, National Tours and regional theatres from coast to coast. He also serves as Goodspeed's audio supervisor.

Wig and Hair design will be by Mark Adam Rampmeyer who has designed more than 20 productions for Goodspeed Musicals, including current production of The Music Man, 42nd Street, La Cage aux Folles, and Oklahoma!. As a stylist, he was fortunate enough to be a part of the Broadway productions of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Sunset Boulevard, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and 42ndStreet. Other design credits include Broadway: West Side Story, Lysistrata Jones, The Farnsworth Invention. Off-Broadway: The Toxic Avenger, Horton Foote's Orphans' Home Cycle, and The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore with Olympia Dukakis. Regional: The Legend of Georgia McBride and Christmas on the Rocks for TheaterWorks and many productions for Hartford Stage Company. He is the recipient of a 2010 Drama Desk Award for Horton Foote's Orphans' Home Cycle at Signature Theatre Company.

The Music Supervisor will be Jason Hart who served as Musical Director for the Broadway production of American Psycho. Other credits include the World Premiere of Whisper House (music director), MCC Theater's Alice by Heart (music supervisor/vocal arrangements), NOIR (music director/vocal arrangements), Because of Winn Dixie (music supervisor/orchestrator/vocal arrangements), and the current production of The Secret Life of Bees (music director/vocal arrangements) at Atlantic Theater Company. Jason has toured extensively as keyboard player for Rufus Wainwright, Antony and The Johnsons, Duncan Sheik, Suzanne Vega, Renaissance andCamel and leads his own progressive rock project, I and Thou.

The Music Director will be Adam Souza whose Broadway credits include Wicked and Kinky Boots. He served as Music Director/Conductor for the National Tours of Wicked (2nd National), Kinky Boots, Spamalot (1st National), The Midtown Men, and Les Misérables. Adam also served as Associate Music Supervisor of the international mountings of Wicked in São Paolo, Brazil and Mexico City. His regional credits include Next to Normal at TheaterWorks Hartford and over 15 productions at Goodspeed, including The Roar of the Greasepaint...,The Great American Mousical with Julie Andrews, Snapshots, George M!, Brigadoon, Very Good Eddie, Great Expectations, and The Road to Hollywood.

Casting for Because of Winn Dixie is by Kaitlin Shaw of Tara Rubin Casting.

Because of Winn Dixie will run June 28 - September 1, 2019 [Official Press Opening July 17] Curtain times are Wednesday at 2:00p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select performances at 2:00 p.m.), Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. (with select performances at 6:30 p.m.).

Tickets are available through the Box Office (860.873.8668), open seven days a week, or online at

Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos