Canine catastrophe: John Frost sacks Sandy ahead of opening night

Sienna Elchaar as Annie with Coodgie, the dog who was sacked

Breaking News: “I Sacked The Dog”

John Frost was thrilled, to say the least, about his latest production of Annie, which opened to a standing ovation on Thursday 5 January at the Lyric Theatre, The Star. However, in the lead up to opening night, he was forced to put his producer hat on and “dismiss the leading lady” as he put it.

It’s a scenario which many understudies dream of – the opening night phone call from stage management to say “You’re On!” – and in the case of Sandy the dog, that’s rather close to what transpired.

In an interview this week, Frost told that overall, the process of producing Annie this time around has been an absolute breeze.

“My brief to (director) Karen Johnson Mortimer was to have a show that was very reminiscent of going to Her Majesty’s theatre in the hey day of the J.C. Williamson. I think that’s exactly what it has achieved”, he said.

But like in any great story, the drama came just before opening night when Coodgie, the dog contracted to play Orphan Annie’s best friend Sandy (pictured below), began behaving strangely due to a bout of stage fright.

Annie Promo Pic“The dog was too big and was overpowering the girls, and it wasn’t doing what it was commanded to do”, Frost told

“When we hit an orchestra, and then when we hit an audience it just went crazy and withdrew into itself, and wouldn’t come onstage!”, he said.

So, there was nothing else to do. The producer had to step in and declare that the leading dog was to be dismissed and its understudy take over the role: “And I didn’t have to worry about the MEAA coming down on me for sacking a lead!”, he laughed.

“My biggest drama on Annie was sacking the dog!”, he said. “It’s straight out a Hollywood movie! The understudy lurks in the corner and the leading lady falls down the stairs (or is sacked by the producer) and the understudy then takes over!”

The understudy (underdoggy!) canine, Mickey, performed the role on opening night and Frost says he was very happy with her performance.

“She has triumphed – she has a little way to go, but she has triumphed”, he laughed.

With only one dog performing at the moment, the production is now in the process of auditioning a new dog to share the role.

Doggy auditions will take place next week and John Frost, ahead of a special trip to Korea to see the very first ever production of Dr. Zhivago performed in Korean, will be sitting behind the desk with the director and choreographer auditioning the new hounds to find the perfect replacement.

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *