Daily Reporter Staff Reports

GREENFIELD — W.C. Fields is credited with having said, “Never work with animals or children.”

The belief is that they’re distracting on stage and chances are, they’ll upstage the actors with cuteness and unplanned antics. However, the cast of CrazyLake’s “Legally Blonde — the Musical” doesn’t have a choice. Two four-legged friends are written right into the script, which made for some interesting auditions.

Lead character Elle Woods (played by Payton Cole) is frequently accompanied on stage by her chihuahua, Bruiser. A second dog, Rufus, belongs to hairdresser Paulette Buonufonte (played by Amy Studabaker).

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Musical director Studabaker wasn’t about to put just any four-legger on stage. She auditioned several dogs for the parts of Bruiser and Rufus to see how they responded to the actors.

“We chose the ones that had the best connection with the actors and elicited the best response from the cast,” Studabaker said.

The part of Bruiser was awarded to 5-month-old chihuahua-terrier mix Banner. Owned by Austin Fisher and Jamie McDowell, both actors in the show, Banner is named after Bruce Banner, the alter ego of the Incredible Hulk.

Eight-year-old Buddy, a golden doodle, plays the part of Rufus and is the canine companion of veteran CrazyLake actor Trever Brown. Brown is excited to have his dog in the show with him.

As for being on stage with a dog, McDowell is indeed worried about being upstaged.

“The audience will think he’s so adorable,” McDowell said.

Brown jokes about Buddy’s tenure as an actor.

“I’ve talked to him about character development and what it’s like to play a different dog,” Brown said, “but I’m not sure he got it.”

Brown and Buddy share a scene together that Brown said presents a unique challenge when it comes to staying in character.

“I have to resist using the baby talk voice I use with him a lot when we’re home,” he said.

No one in the cast or crew seems to be concerned about the prospect of having two dogs backstage for the whole show. Buddy will be the responsibility of Trever’s son, Colin, the designated dog whisperer, whereas Banner is small enough to just be passed around among the cast.

Although Banner has been known to howl along with the singing, McDowell isn’t worried.

“He has a little voice, and no one will be able to hear him if he howls backstage,” McDowell said.

As for on stage, “if the worst happens,” McDowell said, “hopefully, the audience will be forgiving.”

Neither dog appears to suffer from stage fright, and the cast agrees having dogs in the cast is a positive thing.

Both dogs get plenty of petting and cuddling, and no one in the cast seems to mind the occasional licks and kisses from the dogs.

“They’re going to steal the show,” Studabaker said. “Banner is too cute for words, and Buddy is just a big lovable bundle of fluff.”

“They have their own curtain call, too,” she added. “We’re hoping for a standing ovation.”

“Legally Blonde” plays at the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts from July 10 to 19. Order tickets online at crazylake.com or call 447-2787 for more information.