Jack Amos is not an ordinary 11-year-old boy. He is producing, directing, choreographing and scripting his own production of Jellicle Cats, which will premiere in Dawson City on April 27.
Amos, who is home-schooled by his parents, has always loved performing music and dance. He started learning the fiddle at seven years old, and was soon busking for charity and performing at coffee houses held in Dawson on occasional Saturday nights.
He eventually added singing and reciting poetry to his repertoire, and puts on an annual musical act for Dawson’s spring carnival Lip Sync event.
The idea for a musical production started when the family visited friends in Victoria, B.C. in January 2012.
“Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats” was one of the songs Amos learned from their friends’ daughter, who is involved with musical dance theatre. He decided that Dawson needed to have musical theatre as well.
After making several phones calls for advice, Amos set up a non-profit organization called It’s Going To Happen!, an organization that aims to do theatre productions with Dawson kids on a regular basis. Amos applied for and received a grant from the City of Dawson, and fund-raised enough money to hire a dance choreographer, two vocal instructors and a pianist.
Amos and his father then made up posters for auditions, which were held in January. He cast 14 children between the ages of seven and 13, including Amos’s seven-year-old sister Jesse.
“I think it’s clever of Jack to put on a musical,” she says. “He’s doing a good job.”
He then wrote the script, which he stayed up several nights to do. He chose eight songs from the original CATS production, a musical he picked just to get started.
“There are no main characters, so there won’t be any fights between the actors,” Amos says.
Rehearsals started the third week of February, on Saturdays only, but eventually progressed to two-and-a-half hours every Saturday and Sunday.
Parents will sew their own child’s costume, while others are helping to build and paint the sets.
“It really brings the expertise to the table and is bringing out hidden talents of the community,” says Michelle Caws, whose nine-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, is playing the role of Jemimah.
Caws is helping make masks, headpieces and whatever else needs doing.
Even though Caws jokingly says that all the rehearsal time cuts into her skiing, she is serious when she points out how this project has impacted the kids involved.
“There’s magic happening with all the children,” she says. “My daughter practices at home all the time, and films herself and her friends on her iPod. It’s beautiful stuff and puts the biggest grin on my face.”
Amos feels the show is coming along nicely.
“The kids are finally settling into their characters,” he says. “They’re actually starting to act.”
When auditions were first held, only a third of the kids could sing.
“Now they all can,” he says with a grin.
Alysha Soliguen, a 13 year old playing the part of Griddlebone, has never taken singing lessons before. Although she thinks she’ll be very nervous come show-time, she is still feeling very excited about the show.
“I’m looking forward to it,” she says. “I’m feeling really good.”
Amos has been working one-on-one with different cast members to help them with projection, line memorization and choreography, both in and outside of rehearsals. He and the instructors consult with all decisions related to the performance.
When asked if he has ever had doubts about the show, Amos mentions a bad dream where he couldn’t remember his lines.
“That made me nervous,” he says. But after the next rehearsal, he gained his confidence back. “I felt much better about it all.”
Amos’s mother, Bridget, feels that her son’s success is a reflection of Dawson and Yukon.
“This is a very supportive community,” she says. “As a mom it’s wonderful to see that your son can do anything… it happens because of where we live.”
“Hopefully I’ve started something that will make people understand that if an 11-year-old boy can do this, so can they,” concludes Amos. “I hope I’ve started something big… I want to get Dawson into acting and musical theatre.”
Jellicle Cats will be performed on April 27 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the KIAC Ballroom. For more information, please contact KIAC at 993-5005, or go to the Jellicle Cats Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jelliclecatsdawsoncity.