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ArtBeat: Winter programs sure to warm hearts

As the Oregon Shakespeare Festival dims its lights for the 2019 season, and a blanket of color falls over the Rogue Valley, tourists have found their way back to their various home bases and the local populace is reclaiming the town in time for a restive winter.

But don’t be fooled into thinking there is nothing much happening until the spring of 2020.

Various local venues are offering a veritable trove of theater and music before the year is out.

At Oregon Cabaret Theatre, helmed by Valerie Rachelle and Rick Robinson and coming off of a long string of quality productions, “Miracle on 34th Street” began its run Nov. 21. The production, which is based on the classic 1947 film of the same name, will be presented as “a live musical radio play,” complete with live Foley effects — sound effects that are introduced into the action in real time — and will feature veteran Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Michael Hume in the role of Kris Kringle.

For 2020, OCT will mount a diverse range of productions, including “Steel Magnolias,” “The Spitfire Grill,” 10-time Tony Award nominee “The Full Monty,” and an Agatha Christie-based mystery entitled “Poirot.”

At Camelot Theatre in Talent, James M. Barrie’s classic story of a boy who never grew up will be staged when “Peter Pan” mounts on the main stage beginning Nov. 29. The play will be directed by Haley Forsyth and David Alonso Rodriguez.

The show promises to “fly off the stage” in what is billed as an audience immersive experience. In the new year, Camelot will continue its popular “Spotlight” series with homages to Glen Campbell and Bette Midler, and will also mount productions of “Godspell,” “Annie” and other crowd pleasers.

Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University will present “Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika,” the second stage of Tony Kushner’s legendary play on AIDS and homosexuality in 1980s New York. The play, which has won a Pulitzer Prize for drama as well as a Tony Award for best play, runs Thursday, Nov. 21 through Sunday, Nov. 24, at the OCA Main Stage Theatre at SOU. It is directed by Jim Edmonson, a longtime OSF collaborator.

In the music arena, Paul French will take up the baton at Southern Oregon Repertory Singers for the company’s annual celebration of holiday music. The program will cover a broad range of music from the Renaissance to the present. A highlight of the concert will be Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s “Magnificat” coupled with Eriks Esenvalds’ “O magnum mysterium” for choir and tuned water glasses, as well as new music from English composer Gabriel Jackson and American composer Randall Stroope.

The combined choirs of North and South Medford high schools will participate in the concert, under the direction of Kendra Taylor, who is also director of concert choir at the university. In early 2020, the repertory company will present an hour-long cantata by English composer Joby Talbot entitled “A Sheen of Dew on Flowers.”

Arts programing remains diverse and brisk for the coming months. Both Oregon Cabaret Theatre and newcomer Rogue Theater Company have reported sold-out shows going into winter. Jeannine Grizzard of Ashland Contemporary Theatre also reports that her production of Wendy Wasserstein’s “Third,” starring Livia Genise, has seen patrons arriving “in droves” to “resounding success.” All evidence is that regional arts and theater continue to move from strength to strength in a robust national economy.

Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a columnist, art reviewer and cultural commentator. Email him at gillespie.jeffrey@gmail.com.

Jeffrey Gillespie