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January 21st, 2005, 05:55 PM
January 21, 2005
Broadway's Going to the Dogs

Meet Broadway's newest stars: they're young, they're hairy and they have very curious noses.

Like the biggest of celebrities, they each go by only one name, Argyle and Fred. They may be dogs, but they're headed for the big time.

In a rags-to-riches story itself worthy of a Broadway musical, the two formerly homeless dogs were selected Friday to join the cast of the new Broadway show "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

"This is the ultimate dream for a rescue dog," said Deborah Miller, who saved Argyle, a 10-month old collie, from a life spent locked in a Bronx basement. "To go from somebody's trash to a Broadway star."

Fred, an eight-month old foxhound mix, was brought to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals after his owner gave him up.

The Broadway show invited dogs from animal shelters across the city to an open casting call Friday at the Hilton New York in midtown Manhattan. Twenty dogs tried out for three spots.

All the dogs are waiting to be adopted, and many of them are recovering from neglect, abuse or abandonment. They each had a story to tell.

There was Winks, who had one eye sewn shut because of a birth defect and was given up by her owner. There was Samson, who was hit by a car in the Bronx and broke two of his legs. And there was Ida, a terrier mix found wandering in Brooklyn.

"She's so ugly, she's cute," said Joanne Callahan as she cooed over Ida.

Bill Berloni, who has trained dogs for more than a dozen Broadway shows and discovered the original Sandy for "Annie," auditioned the would-be canine stars. He had already cast five dogs for the show, all found in shelters, and he was looking for three to round out the pack.

Berloni, who doubles as director of animal behavior and training for the Humane Society of New York, said it was more important to find dogs with a good temperament than dogs who could win a beauty contest.

"If they can come up and meet me and be comfortable, chances are they'll be comfortable on a Broadway stage," he said.

The dogs will live with with Berloni in Connecticut and move with him to an apartment in Brooklyn in March.

Friday's auditions consisted of Berloni rolling around the floor with the dog, asking each canine to jump up on him, and interacting with Kenneth Kantor, the actor who will be swarmed by the dogs in their big scene.

The final, and most important test consisted of a rigorous sniffing session with the five dogs already cast, which range in size from Barney, a mini-poodle, to Harriet, a pitbull-labrador mix.

On Friday, only Argyle and Fred passed all the tests, so heads up canines: They're still looking for a final dog!

The shelter volunteers who brought the dogs to the casting call hope the limelight helps attract people to adopt.

"After they've seen the dogs in the play and seen how beautiful they are, a lot of people will apply for these dogs," said Sandra DeFeo, co-executive director of the Humane Society of New York."

She said she hoped the dogs that weren't chosen would find good homes as well.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, about a flying car and its inventor, begins previews at Broadway's Hilton Theatre on March 27 and opens to the public on April 28.

No one knows if it's going to be a hit, but if it's any indication, "Cats" ran for almost 18 years.


January 21st, 2005, 06:14 PM
Only one thing would make this story better for me, if the dogs were pits or some other maligned breed.

There is another animal making a hit on broadway also. Philadelphia recently sent police horses there after they cancelled their mounted units. A large white horse named Jack Frost is a huge hits with the crowds.

Unceremoniously dumped from the Philadelphia Police Department when it eliminated its Mounted Unit last year, Jack, a majestic 16-year-old gelding, has found fame and a new mission under the bright lights of Broadway.

"He's the toast of the town," said his partner, Lt. Patrick Kelly.

January 21st, 2005, 07:40 PM
I love Happy Endings! :D