From folk roots to Broadway

Camelot Theatre spotlights Linda Ronstadt
Laurelia Derocher sings a full range of vocals in Camelot Theatre's "Spotlight on Linda Ronstadt."Photo courtesy of Steve Sutfin

Ashland vocalist Laurelia Derocher writes and stars in "Spotlight on Linda Ronstadt," an up-close-and-personal look at the professional career of an American recording artist and performer. More than 20 of Ronstadt's songs, such as "Blue Bayou," "That'll Be the Day," "You're No Good," "Desperado" and "Skylark," will be showcased.

The musical spotlight is set to preview Thursday, Sept. 13, and open Friday, Sept. 14, at Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave., Talent. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through Sunday, Sept. 23.

If you go

What: "Spotlight on Linda Ronstadt"

When: Previews Thursday, Sept. 13, opens Friday, Sept. 14 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 23

Where: Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave., Talent

Tickets: $22; $18 for preview tickets

Call: 541-535-5250 or see www.camelottheatre.org

"I went to Livia (Genise, Camelot's artistic director) a year ago with the idea," Derocher says. "I thought it would make an interesting piece because Ronstadt was such a trailblazer."

With roots in the Los Angeles country and folk-rock scenes, Ronstadt became a popular interpretive singer during the '70s, recording a string of hit singles and platinum-selling albums. Her self-titled third album, released in '71, was pivotal in her career. The album featured a group of session musicians who would later form The Eagles, and it included songs by Jackson Browne, Neil Young and Eric Anderson. "Don't Cry Now" was released in '73, yet it was "Heart Like a Wheel" in '74 that made her a star. It featured hit singles, reached No. 1 on the album charts and sold more than 2 million copies.

"The music industry named 'Southern California rock' after the songs by Ronstadt, The Eagles, Jackson Browne and others," Derocher says. "But her biggest feat was in 1980, when she stepped out of her rock 'n' roll persona and played Mabel in a Broadway production of 'The Pirates of Penzance,' directed by Joseph Papp," Derocher says.

Next, Ronstadt collaborated with composer and bandleader Nelson Riddle, who arranged and conducted her 1983 collection of pop standards, titled "What's New."

"She did three albums with Riddle and a full orchestra," Derocher says. "People in the industry thought she was committing artistic suicide, but the first album sold more than 2 million copies."

"Lush Life" and "For Sentimental Reasons" followed.

"I enjoy the Nelson Riddle music the most," Derocher says. "It's the music I like to sing, and a big chunk of the show is about that era.

"It's the most challenging show I've done because it requires my full vocal range. First, I'm belting out her early rock, which can really rough up the vocal chords, then I'm singing a high B-flat during 'The Pirates of Penzance' numbers."

Derocher will be joined by David Gabriel for a duet, "Don't Know Much," recorded by Ronstadt and Aaron Neville. Gabriel also will narrate the Camelot show. Presila Quinby directs, and music arrangements are by Dal Carver and Andy Stallman. The musicians include pianist Kathy Campbell, bassist Steve Fain, guitarist Brent Norton, percussionist Steve Sutfin and Peter Spring on guitar, saxophone and flute.

Ronstadt returned to contemporary pop and country roots in the late '80s, recording "Somewhere Out There," "Trio" with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris and "Canciones de Mi Padre," a collection of traditional Mexican songs that became a hit.

"The show follows Ronstadt's career from the mid-'60s when she leaves home to the late '80s," Derocher says.

Mostly, Derocher says, she wrote the script to highlight how Ronstadt set a precedent for other women in the music industry.

"She was named the best singer of the '70s by such magazines as Cash Box, Playboy, Rolling Stone and Billboard," Derocher says. "She earned more money in the '70s than other female singers, and she was the first woman to perform an arena concert. She was fearless about trying new things."

Tickets for Camelot Theatre's "Spotlight on Linda Ronstadt" cost $22, $18 for the Thursday, Sept. 13, preview. Call 541-535-5250 or see www.camelottheatre.org.


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