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'Spotlight on Hoagy Carmichael'

Camelot Theatre Company will present "Spotlight on Hoagy Carmichael," the story of the son of a horse-drawn taxi driver and a pianist who accompanied silent movies. Hoagland Howard Carmichael was born in 1899, and his career as a songwriter, singer and actor spanned the decades from 1918 to 1981.

Inspired by the ragtime piano artists of his youth, and deeply affected by the death of his sister, Carmichael began composing.

When he wrote and recorded "Stardust" in 1927, his career took off. Carmichael worked with, composed for or sang with such musical legends as Johnny Mercer, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971, along with Duke Ellington.

The show will preview at 8 p.m., Thursday May 28. The show will open at 8 p.m. Friday May 29, and will run at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday through June 7, at Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave., Talent.

"Spotlight on Hoagy Carmichael" stars Duaine George, with additional vocals by Jade Chavis Watt and Kay Garland. Musical direction and arrangements are by Dal Carver with a script by Charles Cherry. The live combo features Don Harriss on keyboards, Michael Vannice on alto sax, clarinet and flute, Bil Leonhart on guitar, David Miller on bass and Steve Sutfin on drums. Narration is by Brian O'Connor.

"Spotlight on Hoagy Carmichael" features 22 songs, including "Two Sleepy People," "Georgia on My Mind," "Stardust," "I Get Along Without You Very Well," "How Little We Know" and "Skylark."

A Rogue Valley native, Duaine George began singing and performing as a child. Ranked in the top 30 of a nationwide vocal competition, George has been a member of Southern Oregon University's Jefferson State Choral Coalition with Kirby Shaw and has performed at numerous events and venues locally, across the state, the western U. S. and in Nashville and Europe.

A backup vocalist for Lyle Lovett on the Britt Festival stage last summer, Watt sings at her church in Ashland, does backup vocals for singer Beth Baker and has been a special guest performer for the Children's Musical Theater of Oregon. She has performed with the Jefferson State Choral Coalition directed by Shaw.

Garland has been part of choral and small vocal groups for many years. She performed as one of the three ladies in a college production of "The Magic Flute" and also toured Europe with the Northern Arizona University Choir. She has sung blues on various stages.

This is Carver's fifth spotlight for Camelot, where he has at times been both accompanist and arranger.

Cherry wrote the spotlights on Julie London and Mel Torme and co-wrote "Spotlight on the Blues."

Vannice toured and recorded with Robert Cray and Lowell Fulson, played with Anthony Braxton, Lauren Newton, Bud Shank, The Temptations and the Four Tops, and collaborated on songs that were recorded by Cray, Eric Clapton and Albert King. He has performed in previous Camelot Theatre spotlights as well as at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Green Show.

Harriss is a recording artist and composer with three Top Ten Billboard CDs and dozens of soundtracks for corporations including Apple Computer, Intel, AT&T and The Discovery Channel. An Oregon Shakespeare Festival Green Show musician for five seasons, Harriss is the touring keyboardist with Ronnie Hawkins and Pat Travers, and has headlined with Aerosmith, Ted Nugent and Foreigner.

Leonhart has been featured with Charlie Byrd in an article on fingerstyle soloists in Downbeat Magazine. He has appeared at such venues as Yoshi's, in the Bay Area, and the Blue Note in New York. Leonhart's work is available on the CD "Together" (with wife Presila Quinby) and his solo CD "Balmer Prayfal."

Miller began playing bass at age 14 and has recently been part of such ensembles as Jazz Eclipse, Jes' Groove, The Jump Daddies and Los Salseros. He's comfortable on stage whether he's with the Rogue Valley Symphony, the Latin Jazz Quartet or the gypsy-jazz group Back Porch Swing. Miller's past Camelot spotlight credits include Bing Crosby, Julie London and The Blues Show.

Sutfin has been a percussionist for more than 40 years starting in the rock clubs of Los Angeles and then touring the western United States with performers such as The Diamonds and Mose Allison. His concert locales also include Reno, Las Vegas and Southeast Asia.

O'Connor appeared onstage at Camelot in "An American Daughter," "1776," "The Beard Of Avon," "Into The Woods," "Shakespeare In Hollywood," "Sockdology," "Bullshot Crummond" and spotlights on Judy Garland, Mel Torme and the blues.

Tickets are $14 for the preview. All other regular performances are $18. Reserved seating is available for an additional $2 per ticket. Tickets are available online at CamelotTheatre.org, by phone or in person at the theater box office from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and one hour before performances.

Call 535-5250.

Camelot Theatre will present 'Spotlight on Hoagy Carmichael' with (left to right) Jade Chavis Watt, Duaine George and Kay Garland. - Photo by Steve Sutfin