There’s nothing like the cute factor, and it weighs heavy in the Manship Theatre’s 2013 Summer Musical Theatre Camp.
Campers will present two performances of the condensed version of that show, Annie, Jr., on Saturday.
The story will play out on the Manship stage with not one but two actors playing Sandy, Little Orphan Annie’s four-legged companion. Well, as far as the theater camp personnel is concerned, the dogs chosen to play Sandy are actors.
Sallie will play Sandy in the first performance. She’s a border collie-Australian shepherd mix owned by dog trainer Jennifer Huddleston. And stepping into the role in the second performance will be the Hotel Indigo’s 4-year-old resident terrier mix Huey.
“We had a Facebook campaign where we asked all of our friends to nominate their dogs to be Sandy,” said Melanie Couvillon. “Then we had auditions on the stage. We had about 10 dogs show up, and we had a trainer test how they would react to things on stage.”
Couvillon is the theater’s director of family programming, events and educational outreach as well as producer of Annie, Jr. She helped in the process of whittling down the number from 10 to four and finally to two.
Huey’s story is special, because, like Annie, he’s a rescued orphan. The Hotel Indigo in 2012 sought a rescue, and the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine assisted in the search that resulted in Huey, named for Louisiana Gov. and U.S. Sen. Huey Long.
Long kept a suite of rooms in the Heidelberg Hotel across the street, now the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center. The late governor used a tunnel beneath Lafayette Street to walk from one hotel to the other.
“There’s a picture of Huey sitting in front of the hotel’s front desk, and it’s irresistible,” Couvillon said.
And the pup clearly was irresistible at the Annie, Jr. auditions. Again, the cute factor has a way of weighing in, and Huey definitely will be cute when he takes the stage with the Manship’s Annie, Jr. cast of 59 campers ranging from ages 6 to 13.
“The campers spent two weeks learning about what goes into putting on a musical production,” Couvillon said. “We started with auditions and worked from there. Everybody’s in the show, so our ensemble is pretty big. We have a couple of campers aiding the stage manager.”
Sandy isn’t the only role that’s been double cast. The lead role of Annie also will be played by two actors: Caroline Collins in the first show and Emma Grace Lambert in the second.
The production will be directed by Cristin Ponjuan and Jorge Ponjuan, who also will be performing the role of Daddy Warbucks.
“We’re excited about this year’s production, because it’s the first musical camp that we’ve done by ourselves,” Couvillon said. “The Louisville Children’s Theatre conducted the camps in the past. And we extended our camp to two weeks.”
Get ready for the cute.