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Quills & Queues: Coming soon to theater near you — adult puppets & drag queens

Two regional theaters that are “Off-Bardway” will open new productions this month at their flagship locations on the Ashland theater circuit.

Oregon Cabaret Theatre at 241 Hargadine St. in Ashland continues its summer season with “Avenue Q,” the Tony Award-winning musical that recently passed its 15-year mark off-Broadway and is currently housed at

New World Stages, the five-theater, Off-Broadway performing arts complex in Manhattan. The two-act show — which runs from July 13 until Sept. 9 — tells the story of a recent college graduate named Princeton who begins his search for a post-college apartment in an outer borough of New York City, where he meets a range of fascinating characters.

The cast of the show is made up of three human characters and an array of Muppet-style furry puppets; the show is known to be distinctly adult in theme and tackles subjects like drinking, sex and porn addiction, albeit placing those themes in the hands of furry puppets under the manipulation of two puppeteers each, in many cases. “Avenue Q” has been produced on Broadway and off-Broadway as well as on London’s West End and at various global venues. It won multiple Tony Awards in 2004, as well as a 2005 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show album.

This production will be directed by and choreographed by longtime Oregon Cabaret alum and Associate Artistic Director Galloway Stevens. Stevens has been featured prominently during his association with OCT, most notably in 2016’s “Rocky Horror Show” as Dr. Frank-N-Furter and most recently as Sam Phillips in the company’s 2018 production of the musical “Million Dollar Quartet.”

Across town at the James M. Collier Theatre in Talent, Camelot Theatre will be mounting a production of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” another distinctly camp and highly popular musical with avant-garde themes. It was adapted from the 1994 film of the same name, which featured then-emerging stars Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce as drag queens who take a gigantic silver tour bus into the Australian central territories to put on a show. Joined by Terence Stamp as a bereaved and aging transgender woman — who gives one of the most memorable performances of 1990s independent cinema — the three deal with the highs and lows of underdog living. The stage production at Camelot will feature Zachary Horn in Weaving’s role, Scott Ford in Stamps, and Evan Sheets in Pearce’s. The production will be directed by Artistic Director Shawn Ramagos, who took over the role from Roy Von Rains, Jr., in April of this year.

The show is high energy and jam-packed with ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s dance floor favorites, including “I Will Survive,” “Hot Stuff,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “True Colors,” Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “I Love the Nightlife” and “Finally.” It will play at Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave. in Talent, from July 11 to Aug. 5.

Both companies are increasingly growing their subscriber base and moving from strength to strength with their choices of material, with more sophisticated productions that feature themes with a more urban and urbane quality. Camelot’s next show will be another popular Broadway favorite, “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” Oregon Cabaret will follow “Avenue Q” with Steve Martin’s long running Off-Broadway absurdist comedy, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”

Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at gillespie.jeffrey@gmail.com.

Evan Sheets, left, Scott Ford and Zachary Horn appear in Camelot Theatre's production of "Priscilla: Queen of Desert," opening Friday, July 13. Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune