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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Actor-dogs unleash their passions

Jinx tries out Tuesday for the part of Toto in the upcoming Christian Youth Theater production of

Jinx looks nothing like Toto – at least not the Toto that Judy Garland snuggled with in “The Wizard of Oz.”

But that didn’t stop his master, Virginia Ann Utley, from taking him to the Metropolitan Performing Arts Center on Tuesday evening to try out for the Christian Youth Theater’s production of the classic tale.

“I thought he’d beat out all the pit bulls, but no pit bulls showed up,” Utley said.

Still, her 9-year-old schipperke’s poise in his five-minute tryout impressed the youth theater’s representatives much like it pleases judges at dog shows. Most importantly, Jinx could do what was deemed the most important task: walk across the stage leashless and without turning his head while the audience clapped.

Although the casting of Toto may not be as important as the casting of Dorothy, it’s still a big decision, said Nickle Van Wormer, the theater’s executive artistic director. Toto is on stage much of the time that Dorothy is and will always be without a leash.

And there’s a simple truth that makes Toto’s selection important to the production’s success, Van Wormer said: “Animals and babies really steal the show.”

The youth theater will perform the musical 10 times from Feb. 24 to Feb. 27 at the Met. The human cast of about 90 will be selected next month. All the actors will be 8 to 18 years old.

Three dogs auditioned during the first half of the two-hour tryouts Tuesday night. Besides Jinx there was Sparky, a 6-year-old Yorkshire terrier; and Chance, a 6-year-old Swedish Vallhund.

Mercedes, a 3-year-old silky terrier, dropped out when her master found out she would have to be without a leash.

Van Wormer said a decision naming Spokane’s newest canine thespian will be made today.

The nice thing about choosing Toto is dogs not selected won’t end up with bruised egos.

A few tears are likely when Dorothy is chosen, Van Wormer said.

“There are no hurt feelings in a dog,” Van Wormer said.