As Ashanti makes her way through the Emerald City, she will be accompanied by Nigel, who will play Toto.
Nigel, according to press notes, "was born in Arkansas almost 20 months ago. Life was not easy for the 15-pound pup, who was abandoned on the street before finding haven with the Northeast Arkansas Humane Society. . . Nigel was discovered on the Humane Society's website by Bill Berloni, award-winning theatrical animal trainer and Director of Animal behavior for the Humane Society of New York, who was looking for just the right dog to play Toto."
"Nigel's headshot called out to me," said Berloni in a statement. "After thirty years of rescuing dogs for Broadway shows which began with Sandy (who shot to stardom in the original production of Annie), I know talent when I see it. After speaking to the shelter about his personality I knew he had star potential. I predict a great future for him. He is as smart as Sandy with the right amount of Bruiser (from Legally Blonde)."
Tony-nominated In the Heights director Thomas Kail and his Tony-winning collaborators, Andy Blankenbuehler (choreographer) and Alex Lacamoire (musical director), will stage the production, which plays the famed venue June 12-July 5. The production officially opens June 18.
Also joining Ashanti onstage will be Orlando Jones at The Wiz, Tony winner LaChanze as Glinda, Tichina Arnold as Evillene, Dawnn Lewis as Addaperle, Joshua Henry as the Tinman, James Monroe Iglehart as the Lion and Christian White as the Scarecrow. The ensemble will comprise includes Raymond Bennett, Tanya Birl, Darlesia Cearcy, Asmeret Ghebremichael, Angela Grovey, Ebony Haswell, Lauren Lim Jackson, Carl Lation, Maurice Lauchner, Jennifer Locke, Amy McClendon, Kenna Morris, John Eric Parker, Herman Payne, Ryan Rankine, Levensky Smith, Ephraim Sykes, Adrienne Warren, Daniel J. Watts, Juson Williams and Will Wingfield.
William F. Brown wrote the book for the soulful contemporary retelling of L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" that features music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls. The original 1974 production, directed by Geoffrey Holder and choreographed by George Faison, won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical. The premiere Broadway company featured Hinton Battle, Tiger Haynes, Stephanie Mills, Ted Ross, Dee Dee Bridgewater, André De Shields and Mabel King.
For tickets, phone (212) 581-1212, or visit CityCenter. City Center is located at West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.