Like their human counterparts, the canine stars of “Annie” and “A Christmas Story” require dressing rooms, drivers and special diets
- Last Updated: 12:26 AM, November 25, 2012
- Posted: 12:12 AM, November 25, 2012
In her featured Broadway role, Sunny is a surefire audience pleaser. But as performers go, she’s not exactly low-maintenance.
She commands the largest dressing room. She requires a full-time handler. And she keeps her distance — in fact she hasn’t spoken a word since arriving at the Palace Theater on Broadway at 47th Street.
She’s forgiven, though — after all, Sunny is a dog. Specifically, she’s the shaggy beige mutt who plays Sandy in the current revival of “Annie.”
And she’s not the only canine now featured on the Great White Way. The cast of “A Christmas Story” features Pete and Lily as the Bumpus hounds, a pair of lumbering bloodhounds who terrorize the family patriarch and lay waste to Christmas dinner.
The dueling doggy star turns beg a question: What’s backstage life like for the four-legged set? To find out we paid the three dogs a visit.
Make that the four dogs — Sunny travels with an understudy, a fellow mutt named Casey. On a recent afternoon, the pair enthusiastically showed off their spacious dressing room. It’s a pretty sweet setup, from the gold star with their names on the door to the pics of former Sandys decorating the walls to the monogrammed doggie beds and drawers stuffed with treats.
The pair’s permanent home is trainer Bill Berloni’s Connecticut farm, but for the run, they’ve been rented a two-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights. Their roommate is Dustin Harder, an actor-turned-dog-handler who feeds them twice a day, and takes them for walks in Riverside Park. Sadly though, dog runs are verboten; if the dogs were injured or attacked, it would be disastrous for the whole production.
On show days, Harder loads the dogs into a van for the drive to the theater, where Sunny’s routine includes a pre-show warm-up to run cues and “reconnect” with Lilla Crawford, the 11-year-old who plays Annie — and who on this day greets Sunny with a passionate embrace. “How was your morning?” she coos.
Forging a bond between Crawford and Sunny is crucial, so much so that the dog’s interaction with other cast members is limited. The same goes for Pete and Lily of “A Christmas Story: The Muscial” — their chief duty is bonding with John Bolton, who plays the “Old Man” they torment. Limiting contact with the other cast members is especially important with the bloodhounds, given that their breed typically falls on the low end of the canine IQ spectrum. Allowed to socialize freely, “they wouldn’t differentiate easily between the star and a stagehand,” says Berloni.
The rest of Pete and Lily’s routine mirrors their “Annie” counterparts’: a two-bedroom apartment where they live with handler Patrick Peavy and a dressing room with doggie beds. (Memo to Pete and Lily’s agent: their low-ceilinged space is not nearling as styling as Sunny and Casey’s.)
The dogs — shelter rescues who were abandoned in North Carolina – get high-protein dog food twice a day, along with enzymes designed to combat one of Peavy’s occupational hazards: gas that “can make your eyes water.”
The size of their meals is calibrated to account for the steady diet of treats they get during the day. Such goodies are perhaps the chief perk for Broadway dogs, who, caring little about critical notice or career advancement, are motivated by the simple things.
“They’ll do a lot for food,” says Berloni.