In the world of theatre, they say “never work with dogs or kids”. Well, that’s exactly what we’re doing! Chico the Chihuahua, and Nellie the bulldog have joined the teenage cast of Legally Blonde – we’ve got nothing BUT kids and dogs on our stage!
I have to admit, it is a little intimidating to have these professionals in our show - they have already performed it over 800 times! Literally. Chico comes to PGT all the way from the original Broadway cast of Legally Blonde. Nellie joins our team from the national tour of the show, and both have been off book and receiving rave reviews for over 5 years. Impressive for a dog, right? (and you should see their headshots!)
The dog handler, Pat, has been working with the cast to incorporate the dogs into our show. He explained to us that they use “positive reinforcement” to train the dogs, and to get them to learn the show. A few of us from the cast have the privilege of working along side these special actors, and so far, it has been an experience like no other. First of all, I am working with a Broadway actor, right here at PGT! As many Broadway actors are, these little dogs are such big divas! After running the same scene over and over again Chico got a little grumpy, because he knew that he was doing it right, and I was the one doing it wrong, and he did not want to do it again! Chico knows his lines, his entrances, his blocking, his cues, and he knows that once he does it right, he gets a cookie! Chico even knows that, as Bruiser, he is supposed to bark after Margot says, “Bruiser, where is Elle?!” and he didn’t even need my hand cues to get his lines at the right time! Amazing!! Keep in mind, they are still dogs after all!
These two dogs are unbelievably talented, INSANELY cute, and also very, very inspiring. Something special about Chico and Nellie in particular, is that they are both rescue dogs, who were rescued by their trainer, Bill Berloni, and brought into the world of theatre.
Prior to their rescue, Nellie and Chico were malnourished and abused, and now have something called Starving Dog Syndrome, which means they will eat anything they can get to. Which, along with many other dog related rules, means no food on the stage – other than their dog treats!! It is amazing to see how happy and content these sweet dogs are, knowing how difficult their lives were before they were rescued. It is so clear how much they LOVE being on the stage! And look how famous they are! Chico is even featured in the Legally Blonde logo!
For close to four hours so far, we have trained with the dogs, learned all the tricks we need to do to make the dog bits work in our show, and most importantly, spent quality time with the dogs to form bonds and connections so that we gain trust of each other. And let me tell you, it seriously rocks. I have loved every second of working with these dogs, who have taught me a lot about my own acting, my own choices, and also a lot about overcoming obstacles as they come up in life, and not only during the show.