Two rescue senior dogs are helping Dorothy follow the yellow brick road.
Named Scooter and Ralphie, the 10-year-old brothers are making their acting debut in NBC’s The Wiz Live! tonight as Toto.
Scooter will have the starring role, while his bro will be the understudy, subbing in if the star needs a break or if a last-minute crisis prevents the pup from stepping on stage.
The pair was rescued from a Cairn Rescue USA in Chicago by world-renowned animal trainer Bill Berloni. While the movie The Wizard of Oz had a black terrier and the original 1975 stage production of The Wiz had a white one, producers for this production were seeking a “beige” coat. So when Berloni stumbled upon these two he thought he struck gold. That was until he discovered they were seniors.
“I went out to temperament test them and the unusual thing was, they were 10 years old, and I thought they might be a little too old for the show,” Berloni told 1010 WINS. “But when I met them they were happy and well trained and housebroken and energetic and I thought, here are two senior dogs who are going to be stars.”
The two quickly adapted to life on stage and what it means to be an animal actor. Berloni also had to teach the actors how to interact with their four-legged costars. (Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Uzo Aduba, Ne-Yo and Common are all part of the production.)
Scooter and Ralphie are just the latest in a long line of rescue dogs that have had a rags to riches story thanks to Berloni. The animal trainer heads the company Theatrical Animals in New York and has taken many pups under his wings, including Sandy in the original Annie production. He has also trained the bulldog and Chihuahua in Legally Blonde, the Pomeranian in Bullets Over Broadway and the pup in last year’s Peter Pan Live! on NBC.
Berloni and his pack (around 30 dogs) live on a big ranch in Connecticut. He also serves as the animal behaviorist at the Humane Society of New York.
The show airs tonight at 8 pm ET on NBC
H/T: CBS Local