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Tag: touring

Dalmatians go from shelter to show business

101 dalmatians

The Walt Disney movie, “101 Dalmatians,” led to a pretty well-documented surge in their popularity, followed by a surge in members of the  breed being dropped off at shelters and rescues.

When it comes to the musical version of “101 Dalmatians,” though, some abandoned dalmatians actually got rescued — sprung to take part in the play’s final production number.

The cast of the musical “101 Dalmatians,”  includes 15 dalmatians, most of whom were procured at shelters by Florida animal trainer Joel Slaven oversees, according to the Los Angeles Time’s Unleashed blog.

The musical, which begins its national tour this month in Minneapolis, ends with a three-minute finale — a song written by Dennis DeYoung, a founding member of the band Styx — in which only dogs are on the stage. It’s the only time actual dogs appear in the play, in which humans play the roles of dogs.

Slaven said dalmatians were overbred to meet public demand for the breed after the Disney movie. As a result, the breed, health and behavior problems among them grew more prevalent. “People got the dogs, couldn’t afford vet bills, found the dogs untrainable, or didn’t get along with kids,” he said.

Slaven said he chose high spirited dogs, less likely to be adopted dogs for the performance. “These are the outgoing, playful, confident dogs — the dogs that aren’t going to be happy laying on someone’s couch each day,” he said. “They’re the ones chewing and barking because they want to be doing something.” 

Slaven hopes to find permanent owners for the dogs at the end of the tour, slated to run through at least June 2010. If  any don’t end up with homes, he says he’ll bring them back to his ranch.

Chitty Chitty Woof Woof

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the whimsical musical that opened at Baltimore’s Hippodrome this week, features eight dogs in the cast — all owned, in real life, by a former circus performer who turns abandoned dogs into show biz dogs.

Joanne Wilson is the trainer, handler and owner of Samantha (who stars as Edison in the play) and the other seven dogs with supporting roles.

The musical, which runs through Jan. 18, focuses on a whimsical family of inventors trying to harness the powers of a magical car. That has little to do with dogs, admits Ray Roderick, the director who adapted the Broadway show into the touring production, but he decided to include them as an homage to the 1968 movie, which was peppered with pooches.

“Everyone says never work with children or dogs,” Roderick told the Baltimore Sun. “Clearly, I disagree.”

In the show, the pack of dogs bursts onto the stage and sprints across it at full speed, controlled by a hot dog that Wilson is holding offstage.

Wilson, a longtime animal trainer, began rescuing dogs from the streets after leaving the circus, which led her and her sister to establishing Wonder Dogs, a program that rescues dogs from shelters and turns them into show dogs.

Any dog that can no longer perform remains with the Wilson sisters after retirement, their website says. 

The canine cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang includes Buddy, a rat terrier; Penny, a a Pomeranian, as well as Lucky, Bear, Cory, Percy and Sugar.

Wilson and her husband follow the show from town to town in their dog-filled van — including the eight dogs in the show, five more of Wilson’s other dogs and another that belongs to a cast member.

(Image from wilsondogs.com)