Rescue Dog Steals the Show, the Heart of Marietta Actress

The Atlanta Lyric fostered and trained Buster, a Chihuahua mix in need of a home, for "Legally Blonde" in the hopes of helping him find a new home; what they didn't expect was for Buster to be adopted before the show opened.

When Atlanta Lyric Theatre needed a small dog to play the role of Brusier in the musical adaptation of Legally Blonde, the organization turned to Furkids.

The role of Bruiser calls for a small, lively dog that goes off to Harvard Law School with Elle Woods, the blonde who’s not so dumb. 

“The dog has to be charming, affectionate and smart enough to act during his scenes and stay quiet when the action of the play wasn’t on him,” said Brandt Blocker, Artistic Director and General Manager of Atlanta Lyric Theatre, who served as Stage Director. 

Instead of choosing an animal trained as an actor, Atlanta Lyric Theatre management thought a homeless dog might fit the role while providing a good audience for Furkids and its homeless animals. 

Lauren Miller, who manages the Furkids dog shelter, knew that Buster, a 7-pound, tan, Chihuahua mix, would fill the bill. On May 22, Buster was rescued from the side of the road and delivered to Furkids for help and care. The rescue organization gave him the required shots, treated him for heartworms for a month and placed him on the adoption roles.

In an attempt to find a foster home for Buster, Furkids made him the featured pet of the day on Good Day Atlanta in July, but not one person applied to adopt him. His big break came when Atlanta Lyric Theatre called. 

Miller didn’t believe that Buster was trained for the stage, but sensed that he could handle the challenge. She and the Furkids team members also hoped that someone would adopt Buster after having seen his antics as the spunky little dog in the play. What Furkids didn’t anticipate is that Buster would be adopted before the play even opened. 

Alison Wilhoit, who plays the lead role of Elle Woods in the musical, adopted Buster on August 9, the day before opening night. Atlanta Lyric Theatre management thought the dog playing Bruiser should live with the family of the actress who plays Elle Woods while the play was running. It would help the dog bond with the actress. When Wilhoit took the dog home for the night after rehearsals began, he not only bonded with her, but her entire family, including her husband, parents, sister and three other dogs. And onstage, Buster, playing Bruiser, stole the show.

“On opening night, Buster was so happy on stage with me and the cast, and the audience loved him!” said Wilhoit.  “At the end of the show, when the cast went out for bows, I turned and looked to the side of the stage, and "Bruiser" came running, right on cue. He jumped into my arms and covered my face with dog kisses! The crowd went wild, cheering and clapping!. It warms my heart every time he runs to me at the end of the show,” she said.  

Now that Buster is an actor in a starring role, he reminds his fans that Furkids has 600 dogs and cats still waiting to find their stars in loving, forever homes.  Fans can go to furkids.org to find the dog or cat that will light up their lives. 

Legally Blonde runs through August 26 at the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre in the Cobb Civic Center, located at 548 South Marietta Parkway, Marietta, GA 30060.

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Jean Sommerville August 22, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Saw the play Sunday & loved that you used rescue dogs in the play ... and wow, I have tears in my eyes reading that Buster/Bruiser has a forever home with the terrrific actress who played Elle (also loved her in "Gypsy"). What a GREAT story!!! Wonderful show - laughed & had such a good time with friends, especially after the intensity of our daughters acting in "Sweeney Todd" at YAP. Thank you for sharing this heartwarming and positive story. Our family has 8 beloved rescues and sends a hug to Alison Wilhoit and Buster!


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