The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 47: The dogs of 'Legally Blonde'
This is Heidi. Last year, she was "discovered" in the park by a pet talent agency; since then, she has embarked on a one-dog quest to break into the business. This is her Hollywood story as chronicled by Diane Haithman. And this is her "head shot": That longing look was achieved by placing a biscuit just out of reach.
Even though Heidi was allowed to set paw onstage at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre in January for her first stage role, in a touring production of "Annie," dogs are apparently not permitted to sit in the audience to watch the show at either the Kodak or the nearby Pantages Theatre, where the touring production of Broadway's very dog-friendly "Legally Blonde, the Musical" continues through Sept. 6.
Personally, I don't see the problem -- it's not like this is a production of "Cats." Still, Heidi and I are law- abiding citizens, so I went with friends instead of the dog.
The cast includes two very fetching canines, Bruiser the Chihuahua (portrayed by Frankie) and Rufus the roly-poly bulldog (played by a female, Nellie). The two even have understudies: Roxie for Frankie and Lewis for Nellie. There really is no line between actor and actress when it comes to dogs.
And even though Heidi didn't see "Legally Blonde, the Musical" (we'll have to rent her the movie), I was delighted to find that Heidi's theater friend and advisor from the Kodak, Broadway animal trainer Bill Berloni, was listed in the program as the official trainer.
No, I'm not bothered at all by the fact that I have no working relationship with any of the distinguished cast and crew of the show, but my dog does.
Frankie -- with the larger role of aspiring lawyer Elle Wood's pretty-in-pink pet -- is a 2-year-old stray from the Connecticut Humane Society. Understudy Roxie, a 6-year-old stray, was found by a New Orleans rescue group and located for "Legally Blonde" via petfinder.com.
The bulldogs are also rescues: Nellie, 2, was surrendered by her owner to the Humane Society of New York, and understudy Lewis was also given up by his owner to the Associated Humane Society in Newark, N.J.
Writes Berloni: "When I started my career, I trained a dog to work with a little girl ["Annie's" Andrea McArdle]. Thirty years later, I am training dogs for a big girl. Big girls are much more fun.
"Frankie's success comes form his relationship with the young woman playing Elle, Becky Gulsvig. She was in the Broadway company and is an avid dog lover. In fact, she travels with her husband and her Golden Retriever, Greta, and they have sleepovers all the time. Running onstage to Becky is no hard task for Frankie."
And the bulldogs? Not only are they prone to medical problems, but they're bullheaded too. "But we love them anyway," Berloni writes.
-- Diane Haithman
Photo: Elle's gal pal Margot (Rhiannon Hansen) has a moment with Elle's dog, Bruiser, here played by Frankie, in the national tour of "Legally Blonde, the Musical." Credit: Joan Marcus
Related coverage: Theater review: 'Legally Blonde' at the Pantages Theatre