A YOUNG leading lady starring in Annie has helped pick her canine sidekick.

Lucy-May Alner, 13, is set to feature in a new production of the musical classic at the Regent Centre, Christchurch, next month.

As part of the casting process Lucy went to Carolake Golden Retrievers in Wooton in search of the perfect pooch to play little orphan Annie’s lovable four-legged companion, Sandy.

Five golden retrievers were in competition to win the part – Tumble, Bliss, Demi, Puzzle and Fancy.

The Twynham School pupil’s heart though was won by four-year-old Tumble after she immediately bonded with the tail-wagging dog.

“She’s the perfect colour, a beautiful golden sandy,” said Lucy.

“It was a tough choice but I think Tumble is a star.”

In the musical, Sandy is a friendly stray who bumps into Annie – an orphan on the run.

Annie sings the iconic ‘Tomorrow’ to the lost animal, reassures him that things will get better and protects him from the clutches of the dog-catcher.

All five dogs in casting contention are owned by Penny Gayler, whose daughter, Kate Claxton, is directing the Highcliffe Charity Players’ show. Penny said all of her pack are experienced at being exhibited and have all qualified for Crufts.

“I’ve been breeding golden retrievers for over 25 years,” she added. “They are working gun dogs, trained to retrieve partridge and pheasant on a shoot.”

“Interestingly, Tumble did not take to exhibiting at dog shows, but I am sure she will be terrific in this show.

“The only problem is I am going to have to train her to come to the call of ‘Sandy’ instead of ‘Tumble’. She will think I’m barking!”

Annie runs at the Regent Centre between May 28 and 31, and all profits from the show will go to charities in the area.