Since Annie debuted on Broadway in 1977, Bill Berloni has been casting and training dogs to perform onstage. The go-to guy when Broadway needs a pup, Berloni has long been an advocate of animal adoption and rescue, making stars of at-risk dogs.
The 19th annual Broadway Barks kicks off July 8 in the Theatre District’s Shubert Alley. Hosted by Bernadette Peters and her Mozart in the Jungle co-star Malcolm McDowell, the event promotes the adoption of animals and has built a community amongst animal shelters and rescue organizations nationwide. Founded by Peters and Mary Tyler Moore in 1998, dozens of members of the theatre community come out to support the cause and have even adopted animals of their own on site.
Onstage at Broadway Barks with Gloria Estefan, Bernadette Peters, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and More!
In honor of the event, Playbill takes a look at some of the talented pups (many cast by Berloni) who have graced the Broadway stage—adding authenticity, personality, energy, and a dash of cuteness to shows across the Main Stem.
SANDY in the 2012 revival of Annie
Played by: Sunny (understudied by Casey)
The pup: Sunny was two years old when she made her Broadway debut at the Palace Theatre.
The role: The lovable mutt Annie finds on the street and adopts has won the hearts of audiences since the original production hit Broadway in 1977. The film version also includes a song dedicated to the pup that won’t stop following the titular orphan.
BRUISER in Legally Blonde The Musical
Played by: Chico
The pup: Another one of Berloni’s rescues, the young Chihuahua was perfect for the Days of Our Lives-loving dog.
The role: Where would Elle be without her handbag-friendly pooch? Bruiser makes a splash in the opening song “Ohmigod” when he scampers onstage to report to Elle’s sorority sisters that she’s trapped in the Old Valley Mall.
RUFUS in Legally Blonde The Musical
Played by: Chloe
The pup: Less energetic but just as adorable, this marked Chloe’s Broadway debut.
The role: Elle and manicurist Paulette bond over their love of woman’s best friend and Paulette mourns the loss of her dog to her ex-boyfriend until Elle convinces Paulette she “must be reunited with your dog.” It’s the first test of Elle’s legal knowledge and she passes with flying colors.
PEPI in 2014’s Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Played by: Roxie
The pup: Rescued from New Orleans, Roxie started her days onstage as the understudy for Bruiser Woods in the national tour of Legally Blonde before leaping into Audra McDonald’s arms.
The role: As Billie Holliday’s companion, the most important thing Berloni looked for when casting Pepi was personality. Pepi only comes out at the end of the show, when Billie croons to her pet.
Mr. Woofles in Bullets Over Broadway
Played by: Trixie
The pup: Trixie made her Broadway debut in Bullets before playing Puccini in Living on Love.
The role: As Eden Brent’s prized pooch, the Pomeranian had a lot of stage time. Actor Karen Ziemba spent extra time outside of the theatre bonding with Trixie (and her understudy, Rocco), including overnight visits at Ziemba’s apartment.
TOTO in 2015’s The Wiz LIVE!
Played by: Scooter
The pup: Adopted from Cairn Rescue USA in Chicago, the Cairn terrier took on the role of the famed pup with his brother, Ralphie, as his understudy.
The role: Dorothy runs away from home in order to save her beloved Toto from the grasp of Mrs. Gulch. Of course, when she runs away and the tornado strikes she doesn’t make it to the storm shelter and she and Toto are whisked away to Oz. While famously a black cairn terrier in the film starring Judy Garland, the stage version of The Wiz starred a white cairn terrier. Berloni chose a beige dog for The Wiz LIVE! as a happy medium.
CANDY’S DOG in the 2014 revival of Of Mice and Men
Played by: Violet
The pup: The pit bull was brought to a shelter as a stray and after making a splash on Broadway was adopted by a loving family.
The role: In the stage adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel, farmhand Candy and his aging dog are both pushing the boundaries of their usefulness. In many ways, Candy’s dog is seen as a parallel to the oaf-ish Lennie, who relies on George to take care of him.