‘Nick Tickle’ opens Friday

Published 10:21 am Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cameron Davis was in sixth grade when it all began.

An Ellis Middle School student at the time, he was cast as a “non-speaking animal” in “Welcome to Pooh Corner” for his school play.

That was until “Tigger” came down with laryngitis, and an open audition followed for the role.

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“I thought I would come on stage and scream and yelp and make a fool out of myself and see what happens,” Davis, now an Austin attorney, said. “I guess I differentiated myself. Most sixth and seventh and eighth graders are insecure. So was I, so I don’t know what happened. I guess I was sick of being a “non-speaking animal.”

It worked.

Davis not only played “Tigger,” but went on to perform in all of his Ellis and Austin High plays except one.

A 1991 AHS graduate, Davis returns to the stage as the director of the opening play for Austin’s Matchbox Children’s Theatre’s 34th season.

The production, “Nick Tickle, Fairy Tale Detective,” opens Friday at 7 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre.

“It’s a very, kid friendly show,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of audience participation. It lends itself well to entertaining younger children as well as older, and the humor is easily accessible without being dumb.”

As the play opens, Granny takes the stage and begins telling fairy tales to the audience, which are acted out by other cast members behind her. It isn’t long before she realizes that in every fairy tale, from Hansel and Gretel to Jack in the Beanstalk to Goldie Locks and the three bears, each story is missing a crucial prop. Hansel can’t locate his bread crumbs to find his way back home, and Jack’s magic beans are nowhere to be found, just to name a few.

“Luckily Nick Tickle, a dime-store private detective-era character, attempts to solve the mystery of the missing props to save the day,” Davis said.

The cast of “Nick Tickle” numbers roughly two dozen, with ages ranging from 7 to 42 and with several first-time performers.

Davis said audiences can expect a simple set, which he designed and built in about 11 days with the help of his father, Austin contractor Ken Davis.

The stage will include the three bears’ house and the gingerbread house, along with a giant talking tree.

This isn’t his first stint with Matchbox Children’s Theatre. Davis also directed the theatre’s first play at the Paramount in 2000.

He moved from Mower County that same year and after living in the San Francisco area and Las Vegas the past eight years, he returned to Austin this past summer with his family.

It was the “Nick Tickle” script that sold him on returning to Matchbox Children’s Theatre.

“I think it’s very cleverly written,” he said. “The humor in it really stood out for me from some of the other scripts because of the audience participation and some of the comedic writing.”

“Nick Tickle, Fairy Tale Detective” was written by Steph DeFerie and was first produced as a winner of the “Cape Code Playwriting Competition” on Thursday, Dec. 30, 1999 at the Chatham Drama Guild in Chatham, Mass.

Cindy Bellrichard, secretary of Matchbox Children’s Theatre, said she is excited about the production coming to Austin and about the upcoming season, which also includes plays in February and April.

“With kids sitting in front of the TV, it’s great kids can take advantage of live theatre where their imaginations can really run,” she said. “It’s something they can do with the whole family, too.”

“Nick Tickle, Fairy Tale Detective” stars Jenny Dryer as Granny; Michael King as the title role, and Stephanie Maus as Goldie Locks.

Then there are roughly 20 other roles, including the youngest cast member, Kylee Hanlon, 7.

Hanlon, who wants to be a celebrity when she gets older, is also the stepdaughter of Davis and has been cast as one of the three pigs.

“She’s the equivalent of a ‘non-speaking animal,’ ” Davis said with a laugh.

Like father, like stepdaughter.