Shelter dog slated for Broadway debut in “Annie”

A shelter dog once only hours away from being euthanized has been added to the Playbill for one of Broadway’s all-time most popular musicals, Annie.

Actress Lilla Crawford and Sunny, a former shelter dog picked to play Sandy in the Broadway production of “Annie.”

Award-winning Broadway animal trainer William Berloni appeared on Thursday morning’s Today Show to reveal that 2-year-old Sunny, a Houston shelter dog, would play the role of little orphan Annie’s beloved pet in the upcoming Broadway production of Annie.

“The most talented animals are right there under your nose,” Berloni told the Huffington Post following the announcement.

Coincidentally, Berloni began his illustrious career training animals for the stage in the 1976 production of Annie, for which he chose the original Terrier mix who would play Sandy from a Connecticut animal shelter. That scruffy Terrier went on to portray Sandy in 2,377 performances of the beloved musical.

The trainer has continued his pattern of turning unwanted dogs into stars ever since, going on to train dog actors for shows like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, and recent Broadway smash Legally Blonde. Berloni also rescued and trained shelter dogs for other Annie productions, including four national tours and the 10th, 20th, and 30th anniversary shows, according to BroadwayWorld.com.

“The message is: Animals in shelters are not damaged, just unfortunate,” Berloni said.

When Berloni was brought on board for Broadway’s Annie revival, the training virtuoso scoured the web for the perfect Sandy. After stumbling across a photograph of a female blonde Terrier named Sunny on a Houston shelter website, Berloni was hooked – before even meeting her, he adopted Sunny, rescuing her from her own “hard knock life.”

“I adopted her sight-unseen,” Berloni told the Huffington Post. “I didn’t think she was a candidate for Sandy. Her description was so sweet and she looked very much like the original Sandy that we were just saving her to find her a home.”

As luck would have it, Sunny turned out to be the perfect Sandy.

Sunny’s understudy, a Terrier mix named Casey, is a Berloni rescue as well; Casey was pulled from a shelter near Nashville, Tenn. Sunny and Casey are set to move in with Berloni August 1 to begin training for the role of a lifetime.

Annieis set to debut at Broadway’s Palace Theatre in New York City for preview performances on October 3. Opening night is set for November 8. Tickets are currently available, with Pedigree donating $2 for each ticket purchased through December 31, 2013 to the Pedigree Foundation.

Sources: Huffington Post, BroadwayWorld.com, Examiner.com