World Premiere of Duncan Sheik and Nell Benjamin's Because of Winn Dixie Opens Dec. 6 at Arkansas Rep
By Carey Purcell
The world premiere of the new musical Because of Winn Dixie officially opens at Arkansas Repertory Theatre Dec. 6 following previews that began Dec. 4.
The production continues through Dec. 29.
The cast comprises Julia Nightingale Landfair as Opal, Jonathan Rayson (Little Shop of Horrors, A Year with Frog and Toad) as the Preacher, Gabe Bowling as Otis, Cayla Christina Christian as US Amanda/US Millie, Riley Costello (13, Bye Bye Birdie) as Dunlap Dewberry, Aisha de Haas (Caroline, or Change; The Trip to Bountiful) as Gloria Dump, Imari Hardon as Amanda, Reagan Hodson as US Sweetie Pie, Dalton Johnson as US Stevie, Crystal Kellogg as Sunny/US Jeanne, Tari Kelly (Anything Goes, The Boy from Oz) as Jeanne, Shannon Lamb as Millie/US Gloria, Danny Phillips as Stevie, Nic Rowe as Carl/US Otis/US Jiggs, Molly Russ as US Opal/US Sunny, Sam Shaughnessy as US Dunlap, Doug Storm (Jekyll & Hyde, Dance of the Vampires) as Jiggs/US Preacher and Sydni Whitfield as Sweetie Pie.
The production, which features music by Tony winner Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) and lyrics and book by Tony nominee Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde, The Explorers Club), is directed by Tony nominee John Tartaglia (Avenue Q, Shrek the Musical).
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.
Because of Winn Dixie features a live dog in the leading role: Irish wolfhound Taran, who was trained by Bill Berloni.
"This story will melt your heart," producing artistic director Bob Hupp said in an earlier 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."
The production features set design by Mike Nichols, costume design by Marianne Custer, lighting design by Michael J. Eddy and sound design by Allan Branson. Lynda J. Kwallek is properties designer, John Grimsley is assistant animal trainer, Melanie Tojio Lockyer is associate director, Danny Kuenzel is AEA stage manager and Jason Hart is music director/arrangemer/band leader.
More information is available by visiting therep.org.
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