Dog lovers of all ages will be delighted when canines and comedy collide in the smash hit Mutts Gone Nuts. From shelters to showbiz, these amazing mutts will unleash havoc and hilarity at The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College, Saturday, April 14, for two big shows at 11 am and 2 pm. Deemed “A must see!” by the Washington Post, these dogs are sure to steal your heart, and then your socks.
This lovable pack of nine rescue dogs and their four human counterparts draw as many wide-eyed expressions and hoots and hollers as they do belly laughs. Mutts Gone Nuts takes a world champion dog trainer, a nationally recognized comedian, two dedicated dog owners/performers, and nine adorable rescue dogs and creates a family show that is as impressively skilled as it is hilarious. It’s all done within the compassionate realm of animal rescue and care.
Scott and Joan Houghton began their fun-filled marriage 32 years ago as street performers and jugglers. Their act took them from Las Vegas to Tokyo, from Australia to New Zealand, and even made them a featured act in Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. After 20 years of juggling, they got the idea to add dogs to their act. In no time at all, the dogs became the stars of the show and Mutts Gone Nuts was born.
Each of their canine performers has been rescued from a shelter and trained using positive reinforcement. Scott and Joan, along with their dog trainer Samantha Valle, tap into the dogs’ natural talents by getting to know each dog’s individual personality.
“We find out what our dogs like to do and reinforce the behaviors with treats or toys,” Scott Houghton explains. “Sometimes the behaviors that drove previous owners to relinquish the dogs, such as climbing and jumping, become the dog’s star quality.”
In doing this, the dogs perform well and are happy. And when they’re not on tour, they have the run of the Houghton’s two-acre fenced land, live in the house, sleep on the bed, and are always loved.
“I feel lucky to have come into dog training at a time when force-free training is the new wave,” Houghton says. “Elephants are leaving the circus. Ringling Brothers has gone belly up. And many consumers don’t want to buy tickets to shows that they think will exploit or harm animals. I’m happy to tell folks our dogs are our family.”
Scott and Joan are joined on stage by Valle, one of the world’s top trainers. She and her rescue dog, Geronimo, hold the Guinness World Record for a dog jumping rope double Dutch. They have appeared on The Late Show with Dave Letterman and The Steve Harvey Show. Valle's double Dutch dog video went viral and was played on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Jonathan Burns rounds out the bill with his outrageous antics. Burns was always a kid full of silly antics. In 2004, contorting his body and impressing people with his unusual talents became his full-time job. Since then, he has performed at hundreds of colleges, universities, and festivals across the US, Canada, China, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Jonathan has appeared on The Jay Leno Show and The Late Show with David Letterman.
Between shows, The Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan will be in The Mendel Center Mainstage lobby with adoptable pets and information about their upcoming Bids for Barks event. The Mendel Center will also collect donations of pet food and supplies to be distributed to local rescue groups. Donation bins will be available in the lobby before and after the shows.
Furry Friends Luncheon – Noon to 1:30 pm
The Mendel Center Deckmann Studio
$10 ages 3 – 12, $15 ages 13 and older
Celebrate all things cute and furry before or after the show! The Furry Friends Luncheon will feature a beverage, turkey sandwiches, potato chips, fresh veggies, watermelon and dog biscuits – ahem, cookies – for dessert. Seating is limited. Performance tickets sold separately.
Tickets for Mutts Gone Nuts and the Furry Friends Luncheon are on sale at www.TheMendelCenter.com, through The Mendel Center Box Office at (269) 927-8700, option 1, and in person weekdays from 10 am to 6 pm at the box office located in The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College, 2755 E. Napier Avenue, Benton Harbor. Show ticket discounts are available for seniors, students and children, active military members, and veterans.
Groups of 10 or more receive show ticket discounts when orders are placed through The Mendel Center Box Office or online. Contact the box office about reserving private pre- and post-show party areas and transform your show experience into a school field trip, birthday party, or other celebration.
Mutts Gone Nuts is part of The Mendel Center's Discovery Series. The performance is sponsored by Meijer, Honor Credit Union, and South Bend Tribune, and has been made possible in part by the Gast Young People’s Performance Endowment.