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'Dick Whittington and His Amazing Cat' opens at Southern Oregon University

Dick and his haughty Pussycat have gone to seek their fortunes in London. When Dick is hired as a kitchen boy, the cook lords it over them.

But this cat has more up her sleeve than fur. Will Dick be saved? Will the cook get his just deserts? Will anybody sing and dance?

"Dick Whittington and His Amazing Cat," Southern Oregon University's children's theater offering for the season, will open for a run of nearly a month with special kid-friendly times.

Shows are scheduled for Feb. 13 through March 1, with evening performances at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; matinees at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Feb. 14, 15, 21, 22 and March 1; and matinees at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28.

Directing the production is 17-year Oregon Shakespeare Festival veteran Michael Hume. The whimsical story is a musical, and it's recommended for children 8 and up.

"Dick is one of those characters a million stories have grown around," Hume says.

The play is based on the story of a London merchant who became Mayor of London six centuries ago. Hume's mother, Pat Hume, of Ashland, wrote the play in 1970. She says it was after a visit to what remains of Whittington's home in London that she was inspired to make the play.

Pat was in the 1942 Broadway premiere of Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth" with Tallulah Bankhead and Frederick March and worked in the theater and taught acting for many years.

Michael says his mother hoped for years to see a production of it helmed by one of her six children, and the project was a natural for him.

"I love the medieval period of English history," he says.

Hume says the play calls on the SOU actors to sing, dance, do dialects and play as many as three roles each.

"It's been interesting working with 20-year-old actors," he says. "These days everything is psychological realism for television. I've tried to drum into them that it's not realistic."

Dick will be played by James Larson, Pussycat by Tamara Burgess, the Cook by Erin Claxton. Guest artists include Jim Giancarlo (choreography), Jennifer Schloming (musical director), Chris Duval (fight choreography) and David Kelly (dialects).

Tickets cost $18, $16 for seniors and $5 for students and are available at the SOU Theatre Arts box office or by calling 552-6348.

From left, Kaitlin Humphreys, Chris Carwithen and James Larson appear in in the SOU production of “Dick Whittington and His Amazing Cat.” - Photo by Ezra Severin