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The Man who Trained Sandy the Dog in ” Annie”! Broadway Animal Trainer Bill Berloni and His Collie Argyle, “There to Put a Smile on Your Face”

March 30th, 2016 by admin

Best in Show — a spotlight on Broadway personalities and their animal companions — continues with animal trainer Bill Berloni, whose furry friends have appeared on Broadway in Annie, Legally Blonde, The Audience, the Bernadette Peters revival of Gypsy and many others. Berloni, whose bloodhounds are part of The Dallas Theater Center’s current world premiere of Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical, is also the subject of the Discovery Family Channel series “From Wags to Riches.”

What is your pet’s name, and is there a story behind it? Bill Berloni: Argyle. I got Argyle from a casting call we held for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 2005. He came from Herding Dog Rescue of Long Island. As a child, I had a dog named Rexie who was my best friend. In my adult professional career, no one wanted a “Lassie” dog, so when I had the opportunity to adopt a collie for a show, I jumped on it.

Breed? Age? BB: Long Haired Collie, 11 years old.

How did you find your pet? BB: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang called for eight dogs to run in a pack that would have been found in the English countryside. I decided to hold an open call and invite all the shelters in the tri-state area to bring dogs, and there was Argyle. He was one of four dogs we adopted that day.

Berloni as a child, with Rexie

Berloni as a child, with Rexie

What is the one thing your pet has eaten that he/she shouldn’t have? BB: By the time Argyle was nine months old, and before we got him, he ate two socks and needed surgery. Knowing that was his history, we made very sure he never got into anything like that.

What person, living or dead, does your pet remind you of and why? BB: Argyle reminds me of the comedian Red Skelton. I remember being a kid and watching his TV show and Red was always kind, helpful — there to put a smile on your face. That is Argyle. Where does your pet sleep? BB: Argyle has a suite in our home where he sleeps with two female dogs who play Sandy. He is their Alpha dog.

Is this your first pet? If not, elaborate? BB: Argyle in not my first pet. As a theatrical animal trainer, I have rescued and owned over 200 animals, all rescues. But Argyle reminds me of my first pet. You never forget you first love.

Do you use a groomer, no groomer? BB: We groom Argyle ourselves. His hair is so long and beautiful if you don’t brush him regularly, he will may badly.

Do you dress your pet? If so, what is his or her favorite, or least favorite thing to wear? BB: We don’t dress Argyle, but you should see the outfits our Legally Blonde chihuahuas have!

Berloni and Argyle

Berloni and Argyle

Best Halloween costume? BB: We put a fake sheepskin on him, and he was a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Best trip with your pet? BB: Best trip with Argyle is always Times Square and the bright lights of Broadway.

Favorite Treat? BB: Argyle has Irritable Bowel Syndrome from all the surgeries he had as a pup. He is on a special diet, but a special treat for him is baby food. Yum!

Does your pet do tricks/commands? BB: Besides being trained as an acting dog, he does a great “Lassie” impersonation by holding up a hurt paw.

If you could talk to your pet for five minutes, what would you ask him or her? BB: If I could talk to Argyle for five minutes, I would thank him for being the best dog and taking care of my daughter, Jenna, when she was smaller. She told me he pulled her out of a frozen pond when the ice broke. I would just express my gratitude for taking care of us.

Berloni and Argyle

Berloni and Argyle

Does your pet have a best friend? BB: Argyle’s best friend is my daughter Jenna. He loves me, but took care of the kids first and then came home to me.

Is there a pet product you swear by that you can’t live without? BB: Furimator, a special brush for long hair. It has been so helpful with his coat over these years.

If your pet was a character in a Broadway show, who would that character be? BB: He has been a character in a Broadway show!

If there was one thing you would want people to know about your pet, what would it be? BB: If there was one thing I would want people to know about Argyle is he is the dog everyone wishes they had as a friend.

You and your pet go on a talk show. What is your anecdote about him/her or his/hers about you? BB: During Chitty, we went to do a press event for the Macy’s Day Spring show, and we discovered Argyle dislikes big balloons. He slipped his collar and was running wild around the show. I made a mental note to myself, no balloons ever in our house.

Most embarrassing thing your pet has ever done in public or when guests are over. BB: The most embarrassing thing Argyle does is act so trained everyone thinks he is “Lassie.” I have to keep telling people I trained “Sandy,” “Sandy!” But he looks at me with that big Collie smile, and I forgive him.

Playbill Article By Andrew Gans

Sep 11, 2015

 

 

The Shubert story behind the musical “Oklahoma”, celebrating it’s 73rd Anniversary

March 11th, 2016 by admin

When the idea came about to musicalize Lynn Riggs’ play Green Grow the Lilacs, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II felt that they needed something other than the standard musical comedy treatment. The plot involved an Oklahoma Territory farm girl of the early 1900s (Laurie) deciding whether she will go to a dance with the farmhand she fears (Judd) or the cowboy she loves (Curly). This story takes a jarring turn when the farmhand proves to be a psychopathic murderer whom the heroic cowboy is forced to kill in self-defense. Murder in a musical? Another sticking point was that Hollywood had turned singing cowboys into a cliché. Could this story sing on Broadway?12823236_10154060617063278_3847981918463016187_o

 

This new musical was to be entitled Away We Go – and Rodgers and Hammerstein took extraordinary creative control over the project. With little to lose, they took several artistic risks. Instead of opening with the usual ensemble number, the curtain would rise on a farm woman churning butter as a cowboy enters singing a solo about the beauty of the morning. Hammerstein’s lyrics were in a conversational style, each custom designed to fit specific characters and situations. Despite strong comic material (“I Can’t Say No”) and a healthy dose of romance (“People Will Say We’re In Love,” “Out of My Dreams”) this show was neither a typical musical comedy nor an operetta. This was something new, a fully rounded musical play, with every element dedicated to organically moving the story forward.

 

On March 11, 1943, Away We Go opened for previews at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven. Variety gave it a poor review and columnist Walter Winchell reported his secretary’s cold dismissal (which would eventually be attributed to at least a dozen other sources) – “No gags, no girls, no chance.” 12829007_10154060617213278_7958984754233158788_o

 

A few investors panicked and sold off their shares in the show, but many at that first performance realized that this unusual musical had potential. Rodgers and Hammerstein made extensive revisions to the show next door at New Haven’s Taft Hotel (now the Taft Apartments). 12495945_10154060617443278_4717153328102441427_o

 

At the suggestion of an ensemble member, a duet was re-set as a choral piece. When DeMille staged the revised song with the chorus coming down to the footlights in a V formation singing “O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A, Oklahoma! Yeeeow!,” the rousing number left audiences cheering and gave the show a new title. With an exclamation point tacked on for extra flourish, the Act II showstopper become the musical’s title – and the show that we all know today as OKLAHOMA! was born!

 

The creative team continued tinkering until one night an exhausted Rodgers put his foot down, saying, “You know what’s wrong with this show? Nothing! Now everybody pipe down and let’s go to bed.”

 

…and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

Submitted by Ian Galligan, Shubert Operations Assistant