The casting call went out last January, not to big Hollywood agents but to animal shelters and rescue groups across the country.
Looking for four-legged crooners, black and white, who can get along with others on tour, do the old soft paw on stage, and won’t leap off into the audience when they hear the sound of applause.
Dozens of shelter dogs got the parts for the The 101 Dalmatians Musical including Rascal, a puppy with a broken leg found on the side of the road. Like the others, he has been given a new leash on life by getting to reside on a Florida ranch and travel in a celebrity tour bus while the show begins a national tour this month, starting in Minneapolis.
Animal trainer, Joel Slaven, told the Associated Press it was tough finding dogs to cast for the show.
Apparently, following the release of the popular live-action Disney “101 Dalmatians” in 1996 there was a rush on Dalmatians as family pets, a role not suited to the breed. After the cute puppy stage, many new owners abandoned the dogs which flooded shelters. Since then, canine rescuers are protective of the animals being exploited.
“When the movies came out, they were over-bred and that made the breed, which already has some health problems, even worse. People got the dogs, couldn’t afford the vet bills, found the dogs untrainable, or that they didn’t get along with kids. Shelters, Humane Societies and rescue groups don’t want anyone to use these dogs for entertainment, and they don’t want to help someone who’s going to do this again,” Slavin said.
I guess they came around when Slavin convinced them the animals would be treated like divas and dapper, leading men. Training the newbies like Rascal (above) involved helping the choreographer stage a three-minute finale of all dogs performing a dance routine to a tune by composer Dennis De Young of Styx fame. I hear it’s “jaw dropping.”
But instead of using the Dalmatians throughout the show, their parts are primarily played by actors, as in the musical Cats.
Images: Bree Bailey, The 101 Dalmatians Musical