Pup Idol - dogs take over the Sunderland Empire stage for canine auditions

Binx the dog has proved a real Poochini after coming top of the pups in canine auditions held at Sunderland Empire.

Monday, 3rd February 2020, 2:59 pm
Updated Sunday, 9th February 2020, 2:33 pm

The theatre hosted auditions with a difference to find a local dog to appear in hit Puccini opera La Bohème for its Sunderland date on Friday, February 28.

Dozens of dog owners put their four-legged friends forward for the lead role after reading about it in the Sunderland Echo, with a select number chosen to audition in front of Empire staff and specialist dog trainer Gil Crossley, a former police dog handler who now runs Sunderland-based Back to Basics Dog Training.

Gil said: “The auditions have all been about temperament, that’s the important thing with dogs. Even with police dogs, it’s all about temperament.

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Winner Binx with owner Daryl Ireland of the Sunderland Empire Theatre dog audition for Puccini opera

“We were lucky today because all of the dogs had a lovely temperament, if only all dogs in Sunderland could be as well behaved. On top of that, we were also looking for dogs that were happy to be away from their handler and who were comfortable on stage.”

Among the auditionees was Mindy, the Westipoo which is owned by Jodie Williams from East Herrington.

Jodie said: “I saw the audition advertised in the Echo so I thought I’d bring her along and see what she can do. I have learning difficulties and she’s a brilliant companion, she comes everywhere with me.

“She’s very friendly and intelligent. She’s only 11-months-old and this has been a great experience for her. I’m hoping to get her into an agency.”

Sunderland Empire Theatre dog audition for Puccini opera with Mindy relaxing before the performance

Charlie, the King Charles spaniel/Yorkshire terrier cross also impressed judges. Owner Louise Pescod from Silksworth said: “He’s never done anything like this before, but I saw it in the Echo and thought I’d give it a go. He’s very placid and is a real mammy’s boy.

“He seemed to enjoy the audition and it’s something exciting for him to be a part of.”

The audition was open to dogs of all shapes and sizes, but it was Binx, the 11-year-old Pomeranian/Chihuahua cross which won the role in the Ellen Kent-produced opera.

His owner Daryl Ireland, who named her Gateshead dog grooming business Binx’s Grooming Empawrium after her pet, said: “I read about the auditions in the paper and decided to bring him along as he fitted the description of what they were looking for.

Sunderland Empire Theatre dog audition for Puccini opera with Charlie and owner Louise Pescod

“I was shocked when his name was called out for the role. But he comes to work with me every day and is used to people, so he’s very well behaved. He’s quite a chilled dog.”

Speaking about why he chose Binx, Gil said: “Binx was very calm and had a lovely little strut. It looked like he belonged on the stage, he wasn’t phased at all.”

Puccini’s La Bohème is at Sunderland Empire on Friday, February 28. Tickets are available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, also from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland

Winner Binx with owner Daryl Ireland
Sunderland Empire Theatre dog audition for Puccini opera
Sunderland Empire Theatre dog audition for Puccini opera