Clockwise from right: Kyle Smith as Champ, Chris Carwithen as Itchy, Scott Fuss as Bogie and Jillian Van Niel as Daisy in Oregon Cabaret Theatre's 'Dogpark: The Musical.' - Photo courtesy of Christopher Br

'Dogpark: The Musical' at Oregon Cabaret Theatre

Central Bark is where every dog has his — or her — day. But speed-mating and yappy hour aren't the only adventures that fill an afternoon of canine romance and brushes with the law — not to mention singing, dancing and lots of laughs.

"Dogpark: The Musical," written by Jahnna Beecham, Malcolm Hillgartner and Michael J. Hume, is a comical romp that has had audiences howling at Milwaukee Repertory Theater in Wisconsin and Hope Summer Repertory Theatre in Michigan.

It previews Wednesday and Thursday, April 3-4, opens Friday, April 5, and runs through May 26 at Oregon Cabaret Theatre, First and Hargadine streets, Ashland. Curtain is at 8 p.m. for evening shows, at 1 p.m. for Sunday-brunch matinees.

"It was pretty easy to write," Beecham says. She also directs the OCT production. "Just imagine what your dog would be like if it were a person."

Beecham, Hillgartner and Hume are not just a collaborative songwriting team. They are friends, neighbors and dog lovers.

Collectively, they've created "Chaps!" "They Came From Way Out There" and "Dogpark" for Milwaukee Repertory.

"When Milwaukee Rep called and asked for five ideas for a new musical, we had five dogs between us," Beecham says. "So one morning, Michael appeared at my front door and said 'I've got it: Dogpark, the musical.' "

Soon after, Beecham noticed a newspaper announcement about a singles meeting at the Ashland Dog Park. "It turns out there's a giant network of meetings for singles with dogs," she says. Lovers With Leashes, Singles With Best Friends, Must Love Dogs and People to Pets are just a few.

Beecham, Hillgartner and Hume put together a group of dogs' personalities that might be thrust onto a singles' scene — being the dog park.

"The writing is funny and wacky," Beecham says. "We started imagining what it would be like to be a Chihuahua that's meeting a Great Dane. And then people started telling us stories about their dogs."

So there's the neurotic Daisy, played by Jillian Van Niel, who's been burned before on the dating scene; Champ, played by Kyle Smith, a show dog that is too full of himself; a Jack Russell named Itchy, played by Chris Carwithen, who is allergic to everything and has a long list of phobias; and Bogie, played by Scott Fuss, the stray, mysterious dog with a past.

"He's kind of a Lab mutt," Beecham says. "The story follows the romance between Daisy and Bogie, kind of inspired by those '40s movies with Bogart and Bacall. All of the guys like Daisy, but it's pretty clear that Bogie is the guy for her.

"The music is in the style of hot club jazz, also with a '40s feel. Malcolm wrote all of the music, and the three of us wrote the lyrics."

There are other dog characters in the play: Debbie Downer the Basset has hair in weird places, and junkyard dog Brutus confesses to drinking from the toilet bowl — but who doesn't?

Preview tickets cost $19. The opening-night performance is a benefit for Friends of the Animal Shelter. Tickets will cost $45 and include a post-show talk with the actors and directors, a glass of sparkling wine and a "treat." Other ticket prices range from $33 for weeknights, $37 for Fridays and Saturdays, $32 for Sunday matinees and $28 for Sunday evenings. Bistro seating is available for $20.

Tickets and information are available at www.oregoncabaret.com or by calling 541-488-2902.

Share This Story