Wiz star Ashanti with Nigel.

  • ‘Wiz’ star Ashanti with Nigel.

Arkansas isn’t exactly known for its celebrity output, so we take what we can get. In this case, Nigel the Cairn terrier. You might remember, from an item we did last year, how the pup made an improbable leap last year from the Northeast Arkansas Humane Society Shelter in Jonesboro to a national touring production of “The Wizard of Oz.”


Last spring, Bill Berloni, an animal trainer who’s prepped dogs for the stage and screen for 30 years, adopted Nigel (originally called Toto, if you can believe it) after finding him on the Jonesboro shelter’s website. To make sure he was up to the job, Nigel’s first performance as Toto was for a high school production in Pittsburgh. He shined, and such was his rise to stardom.

Unfortunately, for those of you making plans to see Nigel on stage next week at the Robinson Center Music Hall, he has been removed from the off-Broadway tour of “The Wizard of Oz.” In his place will be Dusty, who, although she could probably pass as Nigel, is not one of Arkansas’s own.


Don’t fret, though — Berloni reports that Nigel was replaced not for lack of charm or skill, but because he’s so good at being Toto that he stayed on Broadway to perform in “The Wiz,” which ran last summer, and is scheduled to be back on stage next spring. At the moment he lives at Berloni’s Connecticut home with 21 other show dogs and 90 acres to run around in.

You’re not in Arkansas anymore, Toto.


“The Wizard of Oz” runs next week at the Robinson Center, June 21-23.