Nominated for two Tony Awards, the Broadway play Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill has already won the admiration of animal lovers for casting a rescue dog in the role of Billie Holiday’s beloved canine companion.
Stepping out on stage each evening at the Circle in the Square Theatre in New York City with five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald as the actress channels the spirit of the jazz legend, nine-year-old Roxie the chihuahua’s own life could be the inspiration for a blues song. A sickly stray when she was found roaming in rural Louisiana, Roxie is thought to be a survivor of Hurricane Katrina.
Adopted by Bill Berloni, an acclaimed animal trainer who for the past 35 years has saved the lives of homeless pets and offered them new leases on life as stars of the stage, silver and small screens, Roxie’s star began to rise when she was cast as the understudy for the role of Bruiser in a production of Legally Blonde: The Musical.
Other formerly homeless dogs who now have a pet parent in Bill Berloni have been making themselves at home in front of theater audiences in 2014. Trixie– a Pomeranian who was saved from life in a puppy mill– can currently be seen alongside Zach Braff and Vincent Pastore in the musical adaptation of Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, and Romeo– an English Bulldog who had once suffered from neglect– recently stood on stage with Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham in an off-Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera.
In Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Roxie portrays Pepe, the pup who brought happiness to the singer during her tragic, final days. The entertainer shared her life with many canine companions, including Mister, a boxer who has been immortalized in the children’s book Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her.
Roxie joins Audra McDonald, and takes a look at a photo of the pup she’s portraying, in the following behind the scenes video:
Photo Credit: Broadways’ Best Shows; Amazon