From Shelter to the Stage, Broadway Crowns the New Canine Star of "Annie"

Joan Marcus
Sunny the dog poses with Lilla Crawford, who will play the lead character in the Broadway revival of Annie.

Broadway's newest leading lady has four paws and some pretty big shoes to fill.

Animal trainer William Berloni visited NBC's Today Show this morning to introduce the dog who will play Sandy in the upcoming Broadway revival of Annie. The canine star's name is Sunny, and she's a former shelter dog from Houston, Texas.

"For the last 35 years, I've been only using shelter dogs for productions," Berloni explained. "Because dogs in shelters, there's nothing wrong with them. They're actually great, and they make great stars on Broadway and great stars in your home."

The renowned trainer began his career in 1977 when he cast a Connecticut shelter dog as Sandy in the original musical. Since then, he's discovered and trained dozens of rescues to play Sandy in national tours and anniversary productions of Annie.

This time around, it hasn't been all fun and games for Sunny. She began by learning basic commands like sit, stay and lie down — which she demonstrated gracefully on the Today Show. But the dog struggled with her fear of cars, loud noises and men in dark costumes. She's overcome a lot in her four months of rehearsal, Berloni said, and she still has a bit more time to practice. Sunny even has her own understudy: a fellow rescue dog named Casey.

"She's an actress," Berloni said of Sunny. "She doesn't do tricks. She has to act like a normal dog on stage that Annie finds and saves."

Annie begins previews at the Palace Theatre on Oct. 3, and opening night is Nov. 8. We're sure Sunny will be a true crowd-pleaser when the curtain goes up!

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