Sandy in Annie
The question you're answering.
Can I use my own Pet for Sandy? Will the dog get nervous on stage?
That makes sense for a lot of reasons. The first reason is you don't have someone's cocker spaniel walking around on the stage looking terrified and pulling focus from Annie singing probably the most well-known musical theatre song in the world. The other reason is, it allows you to put another kid in the show. Granted, you have to tell some little girl who had dreams of playing Annie that they have to play a dog, but hey, it is show biz!
I directed Annie many years ago at my high school. We were unable to use a live dog (long, long, story) so I put one of my kids as the dog, borrowed a great dog costume from a friend and did it that way. The actress did a great job. The costume exposed her fact and she created a snout and then used make-up. She would gaze at Annie, cock her head at certain lines, etc... more than a real dog ever could. It was not my first choice by any means but turned out to be wonderful. At our school matinees we extended her alone stage time so she could ham it up for the kids who loved her and asked to meet her at the end, which she gladly did in character.
I have seen Annie lots of times and have been cast in it twice. To me, there is nothing worse than having a badly-trained Sandy steal the scene from Annie. After all, that is the signature song for the show. When the dog starts gaping at the audience or won't sit still, the audience laughs and leaves Annie looking foolish. My advice? Spend the time and money to get a well-trained dog. It could save a lot of embarrasment on the part of the star of your show.
I have done two productions of ANNIE, most recently this June 2009 (check out my photo album!) and both used very different dogs. My recent production of ANNIE was fortunate enough to get the trained dogs from the recent ANNIE National Touring production and thus, these dogs were highly trained and experienced. They were not nervous performing in front of so many people. That being said, treats and squeaky toys were utlized to motivate the dogs to be consistant with their "blocking". In my previous community theatre production we used an untrained rescue dog and rehearsed with the dog for a couple of weeks. The dog got to know the space and the cast members (especially Annie) and our choreographer ended up adopting it. I suppose it depends on the age and personality of the dog. Is your dog shy? Does she enjoy people? Is she house-broken? :-) I bet she would be fine. I think the important thing is that the dog gets used to the territory (esp with the bright lights and sets, etc) as well as the actors. Does anyone else have good Sandy stories?