NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Yes, Annie, the sun will come out tomorrow. Just ask her co-stars.
WCBS 880’s Sean Adams On The Story
Sunny and Casey, two playful, mixed-breed terriers, portray Sandy in the new production on Broadway.
Their real life story, in some ways, mirrors the plight of that little red-haired orphan
Bill Berloni is the man behind man’s best friend.
“I trained the original Sandy in the first production of “Annie” back in 1977,” he told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams.
He lucked into the gig, getting to act at a small theater in Connecticut in exchange for training the dog for free.
Berloni, who runs his company Theatrical Animals, is back for Annie’s 35th anniversary – his 23rd Broadway show. He trained the dogs for “Legally Blonde: The Musical” (2007), “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (2008), “Gypsy” (2003), “Oliver” (1984), and more.
The original Sandy was rescued from shelter and Berloni swore to save more.
“I’ve kept that promise and whether it’s the main dogs or the understudies, we’ve rescued hundreds of dogs,” he said.
That includes Sunny and Casey.
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“Both Sunny and Casey were probably within 24 hours of euthanasia,” he said.
Casey, who was at a shelter staffed prison inmates in Nashville, was moments away.
“They had the needle out and she wriggled away from the tech and jumped into the arms of one of the volunteers, one of the prison inmates, who pleaded for her to have a second chance,” he said. “So, it was so moving, they did.”
He said the volunteers there sent out an e-mail blast to rescuers saying Sandy was on death row and should be on Broadway.
Months later, they’ve gone from stray to Broadway stars.
“She meets him on the street and a policeman threatens to take him away and she says it’s her dog. And he says ‘Prove it.’ So she goes, ‘Here boy. Here Sandy. Sandy. Here boy. Here Sandy.’ And on a specific end gesture she does,” he said.
Pedigree has teamed up with the show’s producers, pledging $1 per ticket sold to go to shelter dogs.
Bill Berloni hopes folks will make a little detour on their way home from the theater.
“People will meet these dogs and go, ‘Oh my God. They’re so wonderful.’ And the point is, anyone could have walked in and adopted them before I did. They were wonderful before I got them,” Berloni said.
“More and more, whether it’s on Facebook or Twitter, people are reaching out to me, telling me their stories of rescue dogs and it just warms my heart,” he added.
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