Because of Winn Dixie, New Musical by Duncan Sheik and Nell Benjamin, Will Premiere in Arkansas; John Tartaglia Directs

The new musical Because of Winn Dixie will premiere at Arkansas Repertory Theatre in December.

John Tartaglia
John Tartaglia (Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN)

The world premere, which features music by Tony winner Duncan Sheik ( Spring Awakening) and lyrics and book by Tony nominee Nell Benjamin ( Legally Blonde, The Explorers Club), will be directed by Tony nominee John Tartaglia ( Avenue Q, Shrek the Musical).

Performances begin Dec. 4, with an official opening Dec. 6. The production will run through Dec. 29.

Based on the novel by Kate DiCamillo, Because of Winn Dixie tells the story of an unlikely friendship that develops between a lonely girl and a dog she finds at a Winn Dixie supermarket. The novel, which won the Newbery Honor distinction as well as the 2000 Josette Frank Award and 2003 Mark Twain Award, was adapted into a film in 2005 starring Cicely Tyson, Jeff Daniels and Eva Marie Saint.

This original production will also feature a live dog in the leading role. Irish wolfhounds Taran and Cally have been cast in the title role of Winn Dixie. The two are being trained by Bill Berloni.

"This story will melt your heart," producing artistic director Bob Hupp said in a statement. "We are honored that the creative team of Winn Dixie approached us for this world premiere, and I think this project has tremendous potential to introduce a significant new work into the American musical theatre canon, and it all begins right here on our stage, for Arkansas audiences."

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