Monday, October 20, 2014

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Company Rescues Animals, Trains Them for Broadway

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Some of Broadway's most beloved performers do not have the pedigree you might expect in top notch productions, and yet, they often get the most attention and applause. NY1's Stephanie Simon filed the following report.

When I found out I was going to be spending the day with some of Broadway's top dogs, this is not what I envisioned.

Then again, talk about "Best in Show." This season, famed animal trainer Bill Berloni has had 10 dogs in Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.

"You have the star of 'Bullets Over Broadway.' That's Trixie, and she plays the role of Mr Wooffles," Berloni said. "And this is Roxy. She plays Pepe, who is Billie Holiday's dog in 'Lady Day.'"

This is Romeo. He played Rufus in "Legally Blonde." Yes, they all have theatrical names because Bill renames them when he rescues them. And they're all rescued.

"People will say, 'These are great dogs. You're a great trainer.' It's like, 'No, they were great before I adopted them, and anyone else could have adopted these dogs,'" Berloni said. "But we want people to realize that you can go to a shelter and adopt a dog like this for your home."

It all started back in 1976, when the aspiring actor agreed to train a dog in exchange for a role. That first dog was the original Sandy in the musical "Annie." Since then, Bill and his company, Theatrical Animals, has rescued and trained animals for TV, film, print and theater.

Theater is the biggest challenge because it's live and the co-stars, not the trainers, have to cue them and reward them unnoticed.

The dogs have their own handlers, their own dressing rooms, and occasionally, they do give out PAWtographs.

"They have headshots, and they've got a Facebook page," Berloni said.

In 2011, Berloni received a special Tony Award for Excellence in Theater. This season, he was honored by the Outer Critics Circle. Plus, a new edition of his book "Broadway Tails" has just been released. I say feel free to dog ear the pages!

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