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Irish Wolfhound lands 'Winn-Dixie' role

  |   Dec. 16, 2011 at 12:11 PM
NEW YORK, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- A new musical based on Kate DiCamillo's popular children's book "Because of Winn-Dixie" is headed to Broadway with a real dog set to play the lead.

Taran, an Irish Wolfhound, has been cast in the title role. This is the first time a Broadway musical has had a live dog as its central character, the show's producers said.

Featuring music by Duncan Sheik, and book and lyrics by Nell Benjamin, the musical will have an out-of-town engagement next year before opening on Broadway.

The show's animal trainer, Bill Berloni, said in a statement Thursday he is always amazed by how people react to animals in plays.

"My theory is we all know anything onstage is an extension of reality," he said. "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" is the story of a lonely young girl who moves to Florida with her preacher father. She goes into a Winn-Dixie supermarket and comes out with a large stray dog who helps her rekindle an almost lost relationship with her father, a synopsis said.

A 2005 film adaptation of the book starred Jeff Daniels, Cicely Tyson, Dave Matthews and Eva Marie Saint.

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