Legally Blonde heads to Sunderland to find four-legged stars at dog auditions

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The Empire went barking mad as auditions were held to find a local dog to take a lead role in Legally Blonde.

Last month the hit musical launched a search for a four-legged star to appear in the Sunderland Empire run of the show, from April 16-21.

Dog auditions at the Sunderland Empire for Legally Blonde with David Barrett, centre, who plays Emmett

Dog auditions at the Sunderland Empire for Legally Blonde with David Barrett, centre, who plays Emmett

After registering for auditions, a host of hounds appeared before producers in the hope of proving they have the Rex Factor.

The chosen dog will play the role of Rufus, who changes at each venue on the tour, while the other dog in the show, a chihuahua called Bruiser, tours with the rest of the cast.

David Barrett, associate director of the musical, who also plays the role of Emmett, said: “For the auditions we see how they handle simple commands like sitting and giving us their paw. They are bulldogs, so we don’t ask them to do much more than that.

“We also replicate a scene in the show when they come out of the caravan. We had a really good response to the original appeal for dogs. Ideally, we look for a bulldog, as that’s the type of dog in the film, but we also sometimes use other breeds.”

Frank won the role of Rufus. Pictured with owners Jasmin and James.

Frank won the role of Rufus. Pictured with owners Jasmin and James.

Speaking about working with dogs on stage, he said: “We’ve had a couple of interesting Rufuses on the tour. One dog decided any leg was fair game, while another decided that he would decide what his entrance time was and would slip his lead and run on during various scenes. But we haven’t had any dogs go to the toilet on stage yet, touch wood.”

Frank Frater was the dog who impressed the judges most at yesterday’s Empire auditions. Now the British Bulldog will star alongside former EastEnders actress Rita Simons, Lucie Jones, who represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest last year and Bill Ward, who’s best known for his roles in Coronation Street and Emmerdale, when the show returns to Sunderland Empire in April.

Based on the hit film of the same name starring Reese Witherspoon, the musical comedy tells the story of homecoming queen Elle Woods. When her boyfriend dumps her for someone more serious, Elle puts down the credit card, hits the books and heads for Harvard Law School. Along the way, Elle proves that being true to yourself never goes out of style.

Aimee Burford and Otis.

Aimee Burford and Otis.

Gemma Teasdale and daughter Mollie (3) with Poppy and Wilbur

Gemma Teasdale and daughter Mollie (3) with Poppy and Wilbur

Kath Brown and Reggie

Kath Brown and Reggie

Dawn Bramley and Rodney

Dawn Bramley and Rodney