Sheik to compose songs for musical

A musical version of dog-centric tale “Because of Winn Dixie,” with tunes by Duncan Sheik, has begun mapping out Broadway plans that include a developmental reading this spring.

Nell Benjamin (“Legally Blonde”) writes the book and lyrics for the show, which will be helmed by John Tartaglia, whose Rialto thesping credits include “Avenue Q” and “Shrek the Musical.”

The only actor to sign on to the project so far is an Irish Wolfhound named Taran, brought on board under the care of veteran Rialto animal trainer Bill Berloni, who’ll serve as animal director on the show.

Canine will serve as the lead character of the musical, based on the 2000 Kate DiCamillo novel that also inspired a 2005 pic. Storyline centers on a stray dog who helps a young girl embrace life and reconnect with her father.

Producers estimate the show will be budgeted between $6 million and $7 million, with a cast of about 15 actors. Team is shooting for a mid-size Rialto house of about 1200 seats.

Sheik, who picked up a Tony for his score to “Spring Awakening,” is also at work on other stage projects that include the brewing legit version of “American Psycho.”

Gerald Goehring, Michael F. Mitri and Dorothy Berloni lead the producing team of “Winn-Dixie.” Goehring and Mitri also produce the tuner version of “A Christmas Story,” currently playing a national tour during the holiday season.

Exact dates for the “Winn-Dixie” reading have not been set, with a production timeline, including an out-of-town tryout, still to be hammered out.

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