The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

June 28, 2013

The role of Toto goes to ... Abby!

VIEW FROM BACKSTAGE: By Cindy Worley
For The Register Herald

BECKLEY — I figured it wouldn’t take me too long to make a mistake in this column, but I never thought I would have a blunder in the very first one!

Last week I said that the current cast of Theatre West Virginia ranges in age from 5 to 55.

As it turns out, we have one cast member who is younger.

Of course, she is also furry, has short legs, cannot sing or dance and her acting skills are untested.

But I am willing to bet that she will be one of the most popular cast members in “The Wizard of Oz” when it begins July 12.

On that night, I predict, a star will be born.

Her name is Abby, and she scored the prime role of Toto.

Is there anyone who hasn’t heard of Toto — or fallen in love with the feisty canine who bit Miss Gulch and traveled with his beloved Dorothy from the bleak Kansas prairie to the Wonderful Land of Oz?

In his book, L. Frank Baum describes Toto this way: “It was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings. Toto was not gray; he was a little black dog, with long, silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose.”

Although Baum never specified what breed Toto was, he is best remembered as the little Cairn terrier who played him so well in the classic 1939 film.

That dog was a female, named Terry, which starred in the movie “Bright Eyes” with Shirley Temple. She had quite an impressive resume for a dog whose original owners could not house train her.

Abby’s story is very similar to Terry’s.

According to Tammi Sherwood, Abby’s human mommy, Abby’s first owner gave her away, thinking her untrainable.

It seemed Abby not only didn’t want to be housebroken, she also had a slight chewing addiction.

She was passed along to a neighbor, who also gave up on the little Dachschund-Yorkie mix.

Luckily, Tammi took pity on Abby and adopted her. Tammi is a professional dog groomer, and she and her daughter, Tana Young, trained Abby diligently.

Their methods worked, as Abby was housebroken within a week, and had found her “furever” home.

Abby loves her big sister, Tana.

Abby recently graduated from obedience class at Walnut Ridge Farm.

When auditioning for TWV, Abby showed off her best moves — “sitting pretty,” and, of course, lying in Dorothy’s arms, looking lovingly at actress Katherine Yacko, as she sang “Over the Rainbow.”

Abby proved her star quality. She follows in some big pawprints.

In 1998 and 2000, an adorable little terrier named Licorice played Toto.

And for the 2005 production, our sweet little Killer assumed that role, and later starred in the supporting dog cast of “Annie.”

In the case of little Abby, on July 12, when “The Wizard of Oz” debuts at Cliffside Amphitheatre, she’ll be ready for the spotlight!  

— Cindy Worley is secretary of the Board of Directors and marketing representative for Theatre West Virginia.