Omigod You Guys! There’s a Dog in This Show?

Yes, that’s right. The Omaha Community Playhouse’s upcoming production of Legally Blonde features not one but two furry four-legged actors that will be sure to delight audiences in this popular musical adaptation of the 2001 hit movie Legally Blonde starring Reese Witherspoon.

Meet Remy and Newt, OCP’s newest cast members. Remy, a two-year-old Papillon plays Bruiser. Newt a one-and-a-half year old Maltese mix plays Rufus. Bruiser is Elle Woods’s companion and favorite fashion accessory throughout her self-empowering journey to Harvard Law School. Rufus is Hairdresser Paulette’s dog who she tries to get back from her horrible ex with Elle’s help.

Remy stars as Bruiser Woods

Newt stars as Rufus

Remy and Newt are making their theatrical debut in Legally Blonde. Newt was rescued by OCP alums Connie Lee and Paul Schneider. Remy was also rescued by Sandi Hansen when he was seven months old. Sandi, a professional dog trainer at Sandi’s K9 Management, is training the dogs to follow commands, listen for cues and be obedient while on stage.  

Working with dogs on stage can be quite a challenge at first. Director Carl Beck describes some of the challenges and how he works to overcome them. “It’s difficult to make decisions about movement when we aren’t sure about how comfortable the dog will be in a situation,” said Carl. “We set goals we want the dog to complete such as running on stage or barking on cue. If the dog doesn’t seem to be comfortable with the situation then it’s important to work out the logistics and come up with possible alternatives.“

Remy and Leanne Hill Carlson who stars as Elle Woods

When asked, what is the most difficult part of training dogs for live theatre, Sandi said, “Not having an audience of 600 to rehearse in front of. In my book, there really is no such thing as over-preparation for a live audience! The applause, laughter, “oohs” and “aaahs” are really not something you can simulate in a training environment...”

Preparing a dog for the theatre requires a lot of practice and hands-on experience. Sandi explains, “Several hours are required on stage, backstage and away from the theatre. Aside from the mere basics, extensive socializing is needed to ensure that the dogs will not only be comfortable around new and different settings, but also enjoy the experience.”
Remy and Leanne Hill Carlson

Not every dog is suitable for a career on the stage. “There are certain qualities I look for in theatrical dogs, and it takes a certain character to be able to handle the stresses and training of a stage atmosphere,” said Sandi. “I look for dogs who are both outgoing and comfortable with humans first and foremost. The dogs must also be enthusiastic about learning, and not all dogs have all of these qualities. Of course, physical cuteness is a plus … but then we look at the role of Rufus. This part calls for a big, gruff Bulldog. There aren’t many Bulldogs out there who could handle this role, even though it isn’t a very demanding role … so I’ve borrowed Newt, a Maltese mix. I could see his theatre appeal from day one, and was excited to break him into theatre.”

See Remy and Newt in their theatrical debut on stage in OCP’s production of Legally Blonde. The show runs September 14-October 14 in the Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre. Tickets are $40 for adults and $24 for student tickets. For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $29 for adults and $18 for students. For tickets or for more information, visit the OCP Box Office, call (402) 553-0800 or click here.

Story by Ryan Murray


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