By Robert Simonson
25 Mar 2013
|Photo by Monica Simoes/Breakfast at Tiffany's|
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Dogs are no strangers to Broadway. You need only look as far as this season's revival of Annie to find a prominently placed stage pooch. Other titles that have featured hounds come easily to mind. A few include the musical Legally Blonde; A Christmas Story, The Musical; The Will Rogers Follies (which included an entire dog act); Oliver!; Camelot; Gypsy; Nick and Nora — the list goes on. But cats?
"In my research, the only big theatre piece that had a cat was Bell, Book and Candle," said Tony-winning animal trainer Bill Berloni, who has worked on 23 Broadway shows and countless regional and touring productions. John Van Druten's 1950 comedy about modern witches had, among its characters, a black cat called Pyewacket. "From what I've read, whatever the cat did was great. And it ran for a long time. It was a big hit."
Berloni works with all sorts of animals, including dogs, cats, mice, birds, sheep and pigs. But dogs make up "99.8 percent" of his business. He has done a total of three shows that have featured cats. "The first was a musical by Martin Charnin called The First, about Jackie Robinson. The second was a play directed by Eva Le Gallienne, starring Kate Burton, called Alice in Wonderland. And most recently, The Lieutenant of Inishmore."
In the latter, Martin McDonagh's black comedy about a man too crazy for the IRA, the suspected death of a black cat called Wee Thomas results in several gruesome murders. "On that, because it was a key to the story, they asked me not to have credit in the program." (The audience yowled with laughter at the feline's appearance in the play at Off-Broadway's Atlantic Theater Company; the production moved to Broadway.)Continued...