A paws-itive performance


Junior Audrey Shin holds Little during practice on Jan. 24. Shin plays Paulette, the nail technician who Elle befriends, and will perform Jan. 27-30

The show is over. Clapping fills the air as actors run onto the stage, music playing overhead. Then, in the midst of it all, out prances the canine stars of the show, Colby and Little.


“Legally Blonde” is famous for many things, from its use of the color pink or introducing the character Elle Woods, but Hebron theater’s Jan. 27-30 production will have the addition of live dogs. 


“I’ll be taking care of the dogs backstage throughout the show and making sure that they’re where they’re supposed to be,” head director Scott Crew said. “We’re not going to have them on [stage] a lot. On the Broadway production they had a dog that they trained to play Rufus and a dog that they trained to play Bruiser, [but] we don’t have that luxury.”


The two dogs being used in “Legally Blonde” have not received much training. Colby, who plays the role of Elle Wood’s dog, Bruiser, is owned by technical theater director Stephanie Berry and has gone through basic house training. Assistant director Chelsey Thornburg’s dog, Little, who plays Paulette’s dog, Rufus, was originally supposed to be in Arbor Creek Middle School’s performance of “Annie Jr.” before COVID-19 shut down the show. Without proper stage training, the owners and the rest of the crew have found creative ways of getting the dogs to do what’s wanted. 


“What has helped is [Little is] very food motivated, because to do all that, you have to have some motivation,” Thornburg said. “Essentially, if you have a treat in your hand, he’s going to be your best friend. On Saturday, I gave Max, [who plays Kyle,] my running leash, which is a leash that clips to a belt loop. So Max has been walking around with him and will just randomly give him treats. Whenever [Little] sees Max he gets excited.”


Originally, a student from the varsity tech program was supposed to be the dog handler, but after talking with the other directors, Crew took the job. 


“The co-directors have asked me if I could not sit in the audience because I carry bad juju,” Crew said. “I thought that since I couldn’t be in the audience watching the show, I could be backstage taking care of the dogs. I have to do something — I would just go crazy if I sat in the audience and did nothing.”


The dogs have only met each other a few times, but people they encounter have described them as friendly. Both dogs rarely bark when on stage or with people, but they retain differences that will make their performances different than those of the dogs in the movie adaptation. 


“Little is very inquisitive,” Crew said. “He loves to explore. Mrs. Berry’s dog, not so much, he’s very docile. That may be part of the breed.”


This will be the first performance either dog will be in, and their owners have expressed eagerness for seeing their pets on stage. 


“I’m excited, as a dog mom, for him to hang out with all the students,” Berry said. “I’ve socialized him and we go to the dog park, but I like that he meets other people. He gets really attached to me. I have to stay away from him, because he won’t focus. I brought him up here one day for publicity shoots, and if I was around, he wouldn’t focus. I’m excited to pass him off to [the students] and have the kids play with them.”


For the majority of the show, the dogs will be on leashes. Still, no one is certain how the show will go. In the original Broadway production, the dog threw up the first time it was in front of the audience.


“This is the first time I’ve ever done a show with animals in it, so I’m really excited to see how it goes,” Berry said. “I’m sure it’s going to be crazy. They always say don’t work with children or pets in theater because anything goes. Who knows what’s going to happen.”


The rest of the crew has been preparing for their performances this weekend. 


“There’s a lot of moving pieces in ‘Legally Blonde:’ the dogs, costumes, the set,” Thornburg said. “Every scene is a new place, [and] there are new places within scenes. I’m excited to see it all come together.”