Sammy Jo is a true star. She is also a dog.
Possibly the first live animal to perform on the stage at Prospect Playhouse theatre, Sammy Jo has bravely taken on the role of Sandy in the Cayman Drama Society’s latest production, Annie, and her performance is always spot on.
A dedicated performer, she was even so determined to interview well for this piece that she ran all the way from her home on Crewe Road to South Sound, where a journalist found her and took her home for the night. Just that afternoon that very journalist had been interviewing her owner, dog trainer Kenneth Morgan, for this story.
It was only in the next morning that her true identity was revealed and she was reunited with her master, after spending an evening entertaining and impressing the journalist with her tricks and good behaviour.
Yes, Sammy Jo is a star, but she has no ego. She has dedicated her life to helping others, as she is a trained therapy dog who visits the Pines on Tuesdays, and she attends group training sessions on Wednesdays and Saturdays as Mr. Morgan’s demonstration dog to help teach new dog owners and their pups. She also gives blood to help out her friends when they are sick.
‘She is the best trained dog on the island,’ said Mr. Morgan proudly. He knew that she would love the challenge of being onstage for Annie.
‘Sammy Jo is a brave dog, and she will do anything for me,’ said Mr. Morgan. ‘She goes on the big stage at the Ritz-Carlton [each year for the Humane Society’s fashion show fundraiser] and makes the people of Cayman proud.’
Mr. Morgan has thoroughly enjoyed the rehearsal and performance process so far. It reinforces the sense of pride he has at Sammy Jo’s behaviour.
‘My favourite part is how Sammy Jo looks up at Isabella [who plays Annie] during the time that she sings and also when she stays for her signal to go to Isabella,’ Mr. Morgan said. ‘Sammy Jo’s favourite part is to jump out of the box at the end of the show!’
Perhaps the main challenge of appearing onstage is not having Mr. Morgan there to command her. Sammy Jo instead had to learn to respond to others just as well as she has always responded to her owner and trainer.
‘Isabella and the other cast members had a lot of fun seeing Sammy Jo rolling on the floor asking for them to pet her, so I worked that game into the training,’ explained Mr. Morgan. ‘They were all having fun giving her signals so they didn’t know they were even in training. Training them was easy for me.’
Mr. Morgan was confident that Sammy Jo’s training would lend itself to performances, despite the distractions of bright lights and audience members.
‘I knew the training would translate to the stage because Sammy Jo loves and trusts in me and we work in many different conditions.’
Three nights a week is also not too much for the star, he added. ‘She loves children, every night when we get to the theatre she gets out of my car and runs to them,’ Mr. Morgan said.
Annie runs for two more weeks at Prospect Playhouse. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 949-5054.
And don’t think that the stage is where it ends for Sammy Jo, Mr. Morgan assured. ‘There are big plans for Sammy Jo’s future.’