Mark’s Note: This is the final installment of a 3-part series written by our 4-month-old Shetland Sheepdog puppy about his experience in Annie.
Opening night in the theater is an experience like no other. The anticipation. The butterflies. The peeing backstage. It really is special.
The cast was nervous as the orchestra tuned up. But not me. What do I know? I’m a puppy.
I knew what I had to do, of course. I’d rehearsed it twice. But not in front of a packed house.
Our director spoke to the audience before we began, and he promised them a special surprise. Well, that was exciting. I couldn’t imagine what the surprise could be. Andrea McArdle, the original Annie on Broadway, come to visit? That would be cool, even though she has to be, like 10 dog years old or something. I hoped it wasn’t anyone from the recent Annie movie because, frankly, that sucked.
And then I realized: the special surprise was me!
Nobody was expecting them to use a live dog, much less the cutest puppy you’ve ever seen, in a middle school production.
Did they know how much additional pressure they were putting on me by promoting me as a special surprise? Did they expect me to carry this whole production on my tiny back and drum up ticket sales by doing all the talk shows and press interviews? I’d have to talk to my agent about this…as soon as I got an agent.
Anyway, the show began and the kids shook off their nerves and performed fabulously. Suddenly, I was brought to my position, just in the wings. Did I appear to be nervous? No. And do you know why?
The girl playing Annie picked me up, pretending she just found me. I sat by her while she sang that annoying “Tomorrow” song. I probably should have looked up at her adoringly, but there were treats in her pocket, damn it! Then a “policeman” was supposed to walk me away but I didn’t want to go because the girl playing Annie had treats in her pocket, damn it. So the “policeman” dragged me away and told “Annie” to prove I was her dog by calling me, so she said “Sandy, come here” and I ran to her even though my name is Riley but, really, she could call me whatever she wanted as long as she had treats in her pocket.
I was in one more scene, right at the end, with the whole cast gathered around “Annie.” I was supposed to run out to her when she called but I kinda froze a bit, so, pro that she is, she came over and got me.
Afterward the whole audience wanted to get their hands on me. I imagine it’s the same sort of thing Nathan Lane or Hugh Jackman experiences when they emerge from the stage door and are mobbed by fans, only with a lot more petting.
But the best part happened as I was leaving with my human entourage. The security guard yelled, “How did Riley do?”
How do you like that? I was famous!
I’ll admit I may have let my celebrity go to my head a bit. Before my acting career began, I had been pretty solid on commands like “come.” But now, if a member of my entourage said, “Riley, come,” I’d be like, “Yeah, well, have your people call my people.” I was flying high, all right. The director even gave me a new toy. None of the other cast members got new toys.
I started to improvise on stage. At one performance, when the “cop” took me away from “Annie,” and told her to call me to prove I was her dog, a paused a beat before running to her. The tension was palpable! You could actually hear the collective sigh of relief from the audience when I finally went to the girl. I may have also caused a moment of severe concern among the cast and crew.
But then came the bad news. After the third performance, I learned that it it had been the last. Maybe I should have done more to promote the show. No one else seemed all that upset about our short run; I guess they all had other roles lined up. But what about me?
How can I go back to my humdrum life after being a star on the stage? How can I live without the admiration, the thrill of live theater, the treats “Annie” had in her pocket? Do I sit by the phone, waiting for fame to call again? Do I have to go to “canine call” auditions?
Do I have to get a waiter job in the meantime?
And how do I hide my disappointment from my human family? I’ll tell you how…
Mark will see you soon.