Casting auditions are renowned for being tough – and sometimes you only get one chance in front of a director to prove your worth and clinch that starring role.
But for one set of auditionees recently it was a much more relaxed affair. If they could respond to ‘sit’ and ‘come here’, and didn’t wander off to do their own thing, then they were in with a chance … plus they had to have the sort of looks that only a mother could love.
The auditions were for a four-legged canine friend to play the character of Rufus in Legally Blonde, heading to Norwich Theatre Royal at the end of March.
EastEnders’ Rita Simons (who played Roxy Mitchell in the BBC soap), Lucie Jones (who represented the UK in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest with Never Give Up On You) and Bill Ward (who appeared in Coronation Street and Emmerdale) are the human stars of the show, but there are also two dogs in the cast – a Chihuahua called Bruiser and another called Rufus. Bruiser is a permanent member of the show and travels with the cast but producers hold auditions for Rufus (usually a British Bulldog) in every town and city on the tour.
So Norwich’s chance to shine a spotlight on the best pooches the area has to offer came with auditions held at the Kastle Kids unit in Castle Mall shopping centre.
Associate director David Barrett said: “Legally Blonde The Musical is a show all about stereotypes and not judging a book by its cover and the dogs are no different in this. So whereas Bruiser is the cute, tiny, adorable one, with Rufus we are looking for the total opposite. We are looking for a big, brutish, dog that only its mother could love – preferably a Bulldog as in the film, but we are certainly open to options.”
Following an application process, eight dogs were invited to meet the judges – six Bulldogs, a Rottweiler and a ‘Frenchie’ (French Bulldog) – travelling from all over Norfolk and Suffolk, and even from as far afield as Brentwood in Essex.
After watching their owners walk them on their lead and show if they could ‘take a paw’, the judges then took a turn at putting the pups through their paces.The field was narrowed down to three – Monty the ‘Frenchie’ from Norwich, Ellie the British Bulldog from Cromer, and Winston, also a British Bulldog from Hainford.
And Winston, like his famous namesake, won the day.
David Barrett said: “He’s a fabulous dog with exactly the look we are after but most importantly he had the right temperament. He was relaxed when he needed to be and when we asked him to do something he did it with energy. The standard of the dogs in Norwich was absolutely fantastic. It was a difficult decision for us but Winston pipped it by the narrowest of margins.”
So from now until he takes his place on stage in Legally Blonde, Winston’s job is simply to keep himself in the fabulous shape he is in and not do anything to change his distinctive good looks, although his proud owner James Madden said he might treat his much-loved pooch to a nice steak in celebration.