Vulture, cats, elephant tushies — oh my! It was a banner year for animals on Broadway. Here's a look back at the feathers, fur, felines, and canines of the season.
1. Vulture — The Testament of Mary
The one-woman show The Testament of Mary, starring Fiona Shaw as the Virgin Mary, was quite a theatrical event. At the first preview of Colm Tóibín's new play (inspired by his novella of the same title), religious groups picketed the theater, decrying the play as blasphemy. While inside, audience members were encouraged to walk onstage before the show and pay homage to Fiona Shaw, dressed in Virgin Mary blues and encased in a glass surrounded by candles. Amid all of the hoopla, audiences might have overlooked the show's avian star: a vulture. Yes, there was a live vulture onstage. As in, the animal that circles around weak prey and devours their dead bodies. Though this majestic bird flew off Fiona Shaw's arm backstage just as the show began, it left us wishing it had come out for curtain call.
2. Cats — Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breakfast at Tiffany's seems like a flash in the Broadway pan, playing only 38 performances (and 17 previews). While the production featured Game of Thrones starlet Emilia Clarke and off-Broadway veteran Cory Michael Smith in their Broadway debuts and birthday suits, perhaps the most press for this production revolved around cats. After holding an open call for cats who wanted the coveted role of Holly Golightly's feline friend, a professional actor cat named Vito Vincent won the part, with fellow pro Montie being named his meow-centric understudy. Weeks into previews, the fur really flew when, after failing to follow stage directions, Montie was let go. Shortly after, Vito Vincent departed due to his diva-like demands and the show ended its poorly received and sparsely attended run. Man, Broadway is catty.
3. Macaco and Banana Joe — The Mystery of Edwin Drood
For audience members, one of the biggest treats of Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of the choose-your-own-adventure murder-mystery musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, was the appearance of Macaco. The Maltese/Yorkie mix routinely stole scenes in the second act, alongside owner and star Stephanie J. Block in a deliciously divalicious exit. But when Macaco took the day off on February 13, his understudy, Banana Joe, champion of the Westminster Dog Show, drew national media attention from The New York Times, The Daily Beast, and even Vanity Fair.
4. Elephant Tushies — Big Fish
Big Fish is the new musical that tells the story of an imaginative father and his son, who struggles to believe his dad's tall tales. Featuring a cast that includes Norbert Leo Butz, Kate Baldwin, and Bobby Steggert, there is much stagecraft to feast your eyes on, courtesy of director Susan Stroman's bright vision. But perhaps the most eye-opening piece of theater magic is the use of elephants. No, real elephants don't storm the stage of the Neil Simon Theatre. Instead, cast members slide into costumes of elephant tushies (designed by puppet creator Will Pike) that are choreographed to create the effect of real elephants . Talk about bum jobs.
5. Sunny and Casey — Annie
Broadway's most lovable animal moment comes from Annie, the iconic musical following an orphan girl on her quest to find herself a home. Sandy, little orphan Annie's trusted canine sidekick, steals the show night after night. The role is played by real-life shelter dog Sunny, a terrier mix discovered in Texas by 2011 Tony Honor recipient William Berloni. Sunny's understudy, Casey, was rescued from a Pedigree-sponsored shelter near Nashville, Tennessee. Sunny and Casey were so popular, NBC even aired a documentary on the casting of Sandy, entitled Annie's Search for Sandy, featuring Berloni . The Broadway production of Annie has since teamed up with Pedigree to raise $1 million to help canines find homes. For every ticket that was sold through December 31 of this year, Pedigree donated $2, up to $1, to Pedigree Foundation. The sun will come out tomorrow, Sunny!
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