Arts Playlist: Delaware Theatre Company's "Because of Winn-Dixie"
The Delaware Theatre Company has a new hit show on their hands. Ticket sales for “Because of Winn-Dixie,” have been so strong, the Wilmington playhouse recently announced it’s extended the musical’s run.
“Because of Winn- Dixie” is the first major theatrical production with a real dog onstage as a leadcharacter and Bill Berloni, Broadway’s top animal trainer, is the man who trained the four-legged star; a 2-year old labradoodle.
Nell Benjamin, the show’s writer and lyricist says the canine has taken quite well to show business but wasn’t the first dog cast. An Irish wolfhound first had the gig but the breed turned out to be too nonchalant.
“Bowdie, our star now, he loves to be on stage,” she says. “He has a spirit to him and a desire to perform that the audience picks up on, and how would we ever have known that had we not tried another dog first? We wouldn’t have. It’s sorta funny, you learn a lot about animal nature.”
The musical follows the tale of a girl who moves to a small Southern town and is befriended by a dog at the supermarket. Winn-Dixie then introduces her to new friends.
The music was composed by Duncan Sheik, a two-time Tony Award winner for the Broadway hit “Spring Awakening.”
The musician also had a radio hit with his 1996 debut single "Barely Breathing,” which remained on the charts for a record-setting 55 straight weeks. Sheik says composing the music for “Because of Winn-Dixie” allowed him to experiment with different musical genres.
“Of course I’m still the composer so it’s still going to sound like my music,” he says. “But I could kind of play with Southern rock and play with rockabilly and play with gospel and country and blues, and have it be a kind of interesting movement through these different genres that kind of coalesce in the South.”
“Because of Winn- Dixie” runs through May 10 at the Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington.
This story is made possible in part by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.