"Because of Winn-Dixie," Tale of a Smiling Dog, Being Developed as a Musical; Berloni Is Trainer

News   "Because of Winn-Dixie," Tale of a Smiling Dog, Being Developed as a Musical; Berloni Is Trainer Bill Berloni, the Broadway animal trainer who helped Sandy say "Arf!" in Annie, will train the lead canine in a new Broadway-aimed musical version of the youth novel, "Because of Winn-Dixie," about a frisky dog that smiles.

Candlewick Press announced that that plans are under way for a musical based on Kate DiCamillo's Newbery Honor book. Produced by Patriot Productions and Dorothy Berloni, the musical will feature a live dog playing the role of Winn-Dixie, who changes the life of a little girl — and those around her.

The book was previously adapted into a motion 2005 picture.

The musical's creative team is expected to be announced by the end of the year. No producton timetable has been announced.

Producers Gerald Goehring and Michael F. Mitri of Patriot Productions, and Dorothy Berloni, "were struck by Kate DiCamillo's bestselling children's novel from the first time they read it and have been interested in the project for years," according to a June 26 statement.

"The message of the book is personal and affects so many people, including me," stated Jerry Goehring. "The opportunity to surround Kate's story with top Broadway artists lends itself to creating an exciting new Broadway musical." Dorothy Berloni added, "Kate DiCamillo is a wonderful storyteller and we hope to bring this incredible story of joy and magic to life on the stage. We are excited to break new ground by having a live animal on stage on whom the plot depends."

Of the deal, Karen Lotz, president and publisher of Candlewick Press stated, "We are so thrilled about this opportunity and this team; they provide the perfect talents for bringing this show to life. Because of Winn-Dixie on stage will leave a whole new world of audiences smiling."

"Because of Winn-Dixie," which will celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2010, was author DiCamillo's debut novel. It is a New York Times bestseller, a Newbery Honor winner and the inspiration for a popular film.

DiCamillo is also the author of "The Tale of Despereaux," which won the Newbery Medal and, in 2008, was released as an animated feature film; "The Tiger Rising," a National Book Award Finalist; "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane," winner of a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award; six tales starring the inimitable pig Mercy Watson; and the New York Times best-selling picture book "Great Joy."

As previously reported, Patriot Productions is currently developing the Broadway-aimed musical adaptation of Warner Brothers' "A Christmas Story," starring Beau Bridges, and the Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hart's Babes in Arms with Rosie O'Donnell and Schuler Hensley. Dorothy Berloni was most recently assistant general manager on Off-Broadway's Frankenstein. She is married to business partner and Broadway animal trainer Bill Berloni, whose career started with the original Sandy in Annie and is currently working with Bruiser, the Chihuahua in Legally Blonde on tour.

Candlewick Press is an independent, employee-owned publisher based in Somerville, MA. Candlewick is the publisher of M. T. Anderson’s National Book Award winner "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party"; Newbery Medal winner, "Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!" by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd; as well as Kate DiCamillo's award-winning books.