Dog Previously Destined For A Kill Shelter Lights Up Stage In ANNIE

Dog Previously Destined For A Kill Shelter Lights Up Stage In ANNIETony Award winner Bill Berloni is known as "Broadway's Dog Trainer" and has trained dogs (and cats and birds...) for many plays, movies and musicals. The Axelrod PAC welcomes Marti, one of Bill's most accomplished rescue dogs, to the cast of "Annie" as Sandy!

"Bill is Broadway's leading animal trainer since 1977," says Axelrod Artistic Director Andrew DePrisco. "We're thrilled to have Marti join our cast!"

Berloni has an interesting history with "Annie." He was a 20-year-old apprentice at the Goodspeed Opera House when a producer offered him his big break: a chance to act professionally and gain his Equity Card. In return, all Bill had to do was find and train a dog to play Sandy in the original production of "Annie."

It was a bigger challenge than it seemed. Animal performances in movies or television can be stitched together using different takes, different camera angles, even different animals. To perform in a featured role, an animal actor would have to be trained to ignore the distraction of the audience and respond to the same cues the same way, night-after-night, just like his human counterparts. It had never been done before.

"Just as a good performer can move from theatre to film to television, we've found that animal actors can be trained for any media; but it takes the proper preparation, trust, and a comfortable atmosphere that encourages consistent performances," notes Berloni.

Berloni found his original "Sandy" at a local animal shelter - beginning his career-long commitment to using rescued animals. Through a combination of persistence, patience and trial-and-error, he developed his revolutionary humane training techniques - learning how to teach actor and animal alike to create a successful performance. "Annie" became a huge hit and Sandy became "the longest running dog on Broadway," never missing a performance in more than seven years.

This new production features Marti as Sandy. Marti was discovered by Berloni at Adopt A Dog Shelter in Armonk, NY in May of 2013 to play Sandy in the 2014 Sony release of "Annie" starring Quevenjanhe Wallis, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz. Marti had been in that shelter for over two years after being brought to NY from a high-kill shelter down south.

Marti made her stage debut in the 2013 Signature Theater Company's production of "The Open House." The next year, she appeared at Playwrights Horizon in the world premiere of "Rancho Viejo." Three years ago, Marti was invited to Capitol Hill in Washington DC to lobby the Senate and Congress on behalf of the veterinary industry. Her television credits include playing Paul Giamanni's dog in the series "Billions" and the 2017 Nutrish Dog food campaign.

Marti looks forward to playing Sandy onstage, having a long career in show business, and being an ambassador for homeless dogs everywhere, proving they are all stars.

"Annie" runs November 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17 at 8 PM, November 3, 10, 11, 17 at 2 pm, November 4, 18 at 3 pm and November 11at 7 pm. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling the box office at 732-531-9106, ext. 14. The Axelrod PAC is located at 100 Grant Avenue, Deal Park, NJ, and is completely accessible with ample free parking.

About the Axelrod Performing Arts Center

The Axelrod Performing Arts Center is New Jersey's newest professional theater, specializing in the production of musical theater. APAC fosters artistic excellence by showcasing varied and distinct cultural programs that enrich the imaginative, intellectual, and creative soul, while cultivating an appreciation of diverse communities through the pursuit of the arts. For more information, please visit

Photo: Bill Berloni and Marti.

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