Meet the Sandys

Meet the Sandys
Murphy has debuted his acting career in Little Theatre of Alexandria’s production of ‘Annie.’ (Photo/Nicole Moyer)

By Thompson Eskew

 As the Little Theatre of Alexandria opens its latest show “Annie: The Musical,” the ambitious production stays true-to-form with the 1977 Broadway original in its casting, and not just with talented young women. 

Annie and her friends are joined by their very own Sandy the stray dog. 

“Annie: The Musical” hosts two alternating casts of young orphans to perform in every other show, and with each Annie, there is a Sandy to trot alongside her. The pups are portrayed by local Alexandrian dogs Murphy and Theo. 

Murphy’s owner, Shannon Greene, credited his obedience on the stage to both a competitive streak and time spent with professional dog trainer Kyle Gilliam. 

“We compete in obedience competitions … and we’ve been doing that for about a year-and-a-half now, but this is his first time on stage,” Greene said. 

The casting call for Sandy was brought to her attention via a friend who sent a post on Instagram, prompting her and Murphy to reach out and attend an open-call audition. 

Similarly, Theo’s owner, Spencer Ham, a lifelong fan of the theater and frequent patron of LTA, was alerted to the production’s casting call for Sandy via a post on Facebook. He trained Theo personally throughout rehearsals, preparing him for his debut on the stage. 

“I took [Theo] in for an audition and showed the director and producer what he could do, and the rest is history!” Ham said. “Truthfully, all the things you teach your dog at home can be applied to the stage, and that’s how I’ve approached it. The key for me was for any dog, you want them to bond with you so that they trust you and listen to you. Part of the process that had taken the most time was building that connection between Theo and Anna, who plays Annie in the Red Cast.” 

Murphy underwent a similar training process with his Annie. 

“What I really wanted was for him to feel a bond with his Annie, so I made sure they got a chance to interact, and then when she goes out on stage, she makes herself very visible to him so that he seeks her out,” Greene said. 

Though Sandy’s time on stage is relatively limited, the joy and unrelenting love that dogs are celebrated for emanates from him each time, capturing the hearts and minds of the audience. 

“In the show, Sandy is this idea of a comfort for Annie when she has left the orphanage,” Ham said. “She’s out on the streets, and she finds this stray dog who comforts her enough to sing the song ‘Tomorrow.’” 

Although both dogs joined the production shortly before opening night, they took to the stage as if they were born to it. No matter which day of the week you see “Annie: The Musical” at LTA, you are sure to be entertained and laugh out loud at Sandy’s antics, whether it is through Murphy or Theo! 

The writer is a theatre aficionado and recent graduate of Christopher Newport University.