Thank God someone is paying attention: The dog in a revival of Annie, a musical about an orphan girl given a shot at the sweet life, is not going to a classically trained canine with a resume full of work but rather a 2-year-old shelter dog named Sunny, according to the New York Daily News.
Not only that, the Terrier mix who landed the role of Sandy was a death-row dog down to her last 48 hours in a “kill shelter” in Houston.
“The dog was in rather rough shape with an abrasion on her leg,” says animal trainer William Berloni.
It’s possible that some heartless doyenne of the stage is braying right now, “Good heavens! A common mutt has no place in the thee-ah-ter.” To which we say, go back to the 1940s, madame, and stay there until someone comes along to retrieve you. A shelter dog is the perfect mutt for Broadway, and besides, were you aware that every other dog who has played Sandy on Broadway, including the first one in 1977, was a shelter pup?
And did you know that all the Sandys were trained by 2011 Tony Award recipient William Berloni? And that Berloni has included shelter dogs in such hits as Gypsy, The Wizard of Oz, Anything Goes, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?
Someone should give this guy Berloni some more Tonys.
This Sandy will be slightly different, however. Berloni, who is also the director of animal behavior and training of the Humane Society of New York, plans to have her dance.
“I have to say, it’s the first time I’ve ever put a dog in a dance number,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “That’s going to be new and interesting.”
After he found Sunny in Houston, Berloni sent a photo of her to Annie producer Arielle Tepper Madover.
“Save her,” she wrote back.
Berloni did, just in time. “I adopted her sight-unseen,” Berloni told the Free Press. “I didn’t think she was a candidate for Sandy … [then] I met her and went, ‘Wow, she could really be a candidate.’ She’s going to be fantastic.”
It’s a story as good as Annie’s. Maybe even better, because it’s not based on a comic strip.
“Annie is about a girl and her dog desperately seeking a place to call home, and we’re hoping Sunny’s story inspires audiences to consider adopting their next pet,” said Madover in a statement, according to Playbill.
To that end, Pedigree is partnering with the musical on the “See the Show, Help a Dog” initiative, in which Pedigree will donate $2 for every ticket sold (up to $1 million) to the Pedigree Foundation, through Dec. 31, 2013. Visit Pedigree Foundation for more information.
The first Sandy in the ’70s played almost all of the 2,377 performances during the original production. Sunny probably won’t have as strong a run — animal labor laws have come a long way. But the show is in very good hands when Sunny needs a break.
Her understudy, Casey, was rescued from a shelter in Nashville.
Photos via Annie the Musical’s Facebook.