Canine will debut in high school musical

The Koons' are making the high school musical "Annie" a family affair. During the four productions next week, Ethan will be in the pit band, Skye will be onstage and Linda will be behind the curtains making sure the Briard/Newfoundland mix is in the right place at the right time.

A star may be born next week during the Greencastle-Antrim High School Drama Club performance of “Annie”.

Skye, a Briard/Newfoundland mix, will make her stage debut as Sooty, renamed from the original character Sandy because of her coloring. Playing alongside Little Orphan Annie in the Broadway musical production, the dog will be in at least three scenes.

Ethan Koons, 17, a junior at G-AHS, noticed an ad in the school newspaper. Play director Roz Bingaman was looking for a pooch to be Annie’s pet. He offered his own, all 80 pounds of her, slightly larger than the traditional Sandy. After an audition of sorts (photo, personal introduction, attitude analysis), Bingaman determined Skye deserved a chance under the lights.

For the past couple months, the canine has been at rehearsals along with the cast and crew, carefully monitored by her agent and Ethan’s mom, Linda Koons. Linda was confident the role was not beyond Skye’s talents, because of her calm demeanor.

“She’s very laid back, a pleaser,” she said of the gentle giant.

Skye has done just fine, learning to follow the prompts of Shyanne Smith and Amelia Thorne, who will alternate in the lead role. Linda had to train the girls how to work with their sidekick. She watches from the wings.

“Skye won’t keep me out of her sight, so sometimes her rear is to the audience,” said Linda. “The girls are learning how to fix that, but it’s out of my control.”

She is considering bribing Skye with treats during the shows.

To acclimate the animal to the atmosphere of opening night, the cast has begun clapping while she is on stage, since no one is sure how she will react to applause, or even a large crowd. Linda hopes she won’t even notice the number of people, but doubts she will go down the steps. The pit crew, in which Ethan plays trumpet, will also be a barrier.

Skye has come a long way. A friend of the Koons’ rescued her from a home on Skyline Drive in Virginia. However, she couldn’t keep the two-year old, who had been scheduled to be put down by her first owners. When the friend asked Linda to take her, she was immediately impressed with Skye.

“She was unbelieveable,” Linda recalled. “It took us one day to decide.”

That was seven years ago and the mix is now a well-loved member of the family.

The rehearsals have been fun for Linda as well, and she adjusted her work schedule to make the time to attend.

“The cast just loves having Skye there, and it’s a treat for me to work with the kids. They are an awesome group.”

“Annie” will be presented March 24, 25 and 26 at 7:30 p.m. and March 27 at 3 p.m. in the high school auditorium. Tickets are $5 and will be sold at the door.