Dorothy (Kelsey Brown) searches for a real dog to play  Toto in the upcoming Lights of Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz.

Dorothy (Kelsey Brown) searches for a real dog to play Toto in the upcoming Lights of Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz.

Vernon musical theatre company in search of Toto

Lights of Broadway at the Vernon Community Music School are hosting auditions to find the right dog to play Toto in The Wizard of Oz.

Best in Show, Buddies, Lassie; dogs have taken centre stage in numerous films and television.

Who could forget the Canadian classic, The Littlest Hobo, after all?

But when it comes to live theatre, our canine friends tend to be represented by their stuffed, or puppet, counterparts.

That’s about to change when local musical theatre studio, Lights of Broadway, presents The Wizard of Oz at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre this spring.

The troupe, which is based out of the Vernon Community Music School, is currently searching for a dog, yes a real one, to play Toto, and is holding auditions to find just the right  canine to play Dorothy’s best friend.

This isn’t the first time Lights of Broadway has used a live animal on stage, as a pony made an appearance in its production of Pippi Longstocking a few years back.

This time, the animal will be one of the stars of the show, and will appear in almost every scene, said Charity Van Gameren, Lights of Broadway’s director.

“I recently saw a production of The Wizard of Oz in Edmonton, and they had a real dog. It was very obedient. The dog basically stole the show. And people do love animals,” she said. “We are hoping someone in Vernon and the area has the perfect dog. We want the real deal. We’d rather do this than use a stuffed dog sitting in a basket during the whole play.”

Van Gameren has enlisted Corinne Rainsforth to help her find the right Toto.

The administrator at the Vernon Community Music School, Rainsforth is also treasurer of the Vernon and District Kennel Club, who shows and breeds dogs, and has also judged at numerous dog shows. She is also the proud owner of eight shelties (Shetland sheepdogs), one Collie, a Havanese and a papillon.

Although a cairn terrier played Toto in the film version of The Wizard of Oz, owners will be welcome to bring any small breed, not weighing more than 12 pounds, to the audition.

“Dorothy will need to carry it in her arms, and it also needs to fit in a basket,” said Van Gameren.

“It needs to be trainable, friendly and outgoing, and can’t be afraid of sudden noises such as clapping or yelling,” said Rainsforth, adding dogs aged two and up are also preferable.

“We will look at its temperament, and the trainability of the dog. Even if it can’t sit or stay, I can teach that. But it really needs to be calm and it would do well to be socialized with children.”

This will come in especially handy during the Munchkinland scene, when numerous “small people” will be on the stage.

Owners will also need to be on hand to audition their dog, and bring the animal to rehearsals from the beginning of March up to the end of April until the show takes the stage at the Performing Arts Centre May 4 and 5. However, most of the training will be left to Rainsforth to conduct. The dog will also work closely with Lights of Broadway actress Kelsey Brown, who is playing Dorothy.

“Kelsey has a dog at home, and so is used to animals,” said Van Gameren. “The owners will have to be trusting of us and Corinne. We will have the best interest of the dog in mind.”

The audition will take place in the  VCMS’s Carriage House Loft the evening of Saturday, Feb. 25.

Those wishing to audition their dog, or for more information, can book an appointment with Rainsforth by calling the music school at 250-545-4977.