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Camelot Theatre's 2020: Sondheim to 'Annie'

Camelot Theatre’s 2020 is the theater’s 38th season, and what was once just a little engine that could is now a performance powerhouse. Elvis Presley jumps from the sky at the Camelot along with old and new Broadway classics, musicals, comedies, children’s theater and spotlights.

Camelot has pledged to bring its musicians front and center and does so with the season opener, Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” with a four-piece string quartet, piano and woodwinds in an orchestra bay built into the back of the stage. Anyone who has seen the show before will be thrilled to hear those naughty tunes again, especially “Night Waltz,” “You Must Meet My Wife” and “Send in the Clowns,” all serving to carry the narrative of a tantalizing and forbidden long lost love rediscovered. “A Little Night Music” is directed by Todd Neilson, who also directed “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” last season at Camelot. “A Little Night Music” runs from Feb. 19 through March 15, 2020.

Kenneth Benton, an Oklahoma City native and now an Ashland resident, will direct “You Can’t Take It With You,” opening on May 6 and continuing through May 24. After directing 45 shows in Oklahoma, Benton is looking forward to his directorial debut at the Camelot and has seen every show produced there over the past four years. He has a quirky sense of humor, “just a little bit off the norm” as Benton says, and just right for a play that has such eccentric, zany characters.

“The Camelot is a really great space, and right on the edge of a small version of big theater or a big version of small theater,” Benton says. “It’s a well-proportioned space, and the acoustics are terrific so the jazzy fox trots, big band sounds of ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ will bring back memories of 1930s America.”

Rogue Valley actor and vocalist Paul Cosca directs two very different musical shows at the Camelot in 2020: “Honeymoon in Vegas” is a comedy, and the other, “Godspell,” is serious.

“Honeymoon in Vegas” is a brand-new stage adaptation based on a 1992 movie of the same title written and directed by Andrew Bergman. This complicated romantic comedy-thriller has parachute-jumping Elvises, taxi driver misdirection and escapes to Hawaii and Las Vegas. The soundtrack for the show is entirely new and jazzy, Vegas style with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and not the Elvis homage of the movie. Expect some pretty spectacular set pieces and staging with this show, thanks to Camelot’s artistic director, Shawn Ramagos, plus extravagant showgirl costumes. The show opens June 17 and runs through July 26.

“ ‘Honeymoon in Vegas’ will be a huge show, a big summer hoot!” exclaimed Ramagos. “This one is so big we won’t have an orchestra because there are no more microphone ports!”

Camelot’s youth conservatory show for 2020 is “All Shook Up,” a Shakespearean mashup that features some of Elvis Presley’s greatest hits. “All Shook Up” has a very brief run, August 7-9. Rene Hewitt and Daniel Stephens will co-direct, and Carrie Lynch is vocal coach.

“There’s a roustabout who’s the Elvis character, a female lead who dresses as a boy to gain his attention,” Ramagos said of the show. “The little kids do a great job, plus Elvis Presley! Who doesn’t like that?”

Next up is “Godspell,” a dramatic presentation of parables based on the Gospel of Matthew set to traditional hymns and more modern music. The production has been controversial among some mainstream, traditional congregations because in the play, Christ is presented as familiar and personal rather than God-like. Casting is not yet set. “Godspell,” directed by Paul Cosca, runs Sept. 23, 2020, to Oct. 18.

“Our production of ‘Godspell’ will have the original music, songs and orchestrations from the 1971 Off-Broadway production, and we’ll have a four-piece band on stage,” said Ramagos. “Later adaptations tried to modernize the play, and I think they tried to steal some of what the show is by taking out some of the really good numbers. We’re doing the original version.”

Camelot Theatre always ends the season with a big, holiday spectacular, and 2020 follows suit with “Annie, the Musical” based on the 1930s comic strip, “Little Orphan Annie” drawn by Harold Gray. The show,

“That one will have a pretty large cast, probably one of the largest casts that we’ve had on our stage,” said Ramagos. “It has a fairly large adult ensemble plus the orphans with many, many scene changes throughout the show. Some are extremely large scene changes, you have to go into the mansion at one point, so it will be a big show for our stage. Our Christmas shows are always the largest and longest.

Camelot’s spotlights serve as musical interludes between the main stage productions. “Spotlight on Glen Campbell” is an exclusive to the theater, starring Erik Connolly in his ninth Camelot appearance. “Glen Campbell” runs Jan. 9 to Feb. 2. “Spotlight on Bette Midler” stars Kristen Calvin, running March 26 to April 19; “Spotlight on Aretha Franklin,” the Queen of Soul, stars Whitney Reed in her Camelot Theatre debut with the Rogue Suspects as her backup band. It runs Aug. 20 to Sept. 13. To finish off the spotlights, Dave Bernard & The East Main Band returns for “Spotlight on Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young,” Oct. 22-Nov. 8.

For more information on Camelot Theatre’s 2020 season, stop by the box office at 101 Talent Ave. in Talent or give them a call at 541-535-5250. Tickets and more information are also available online at CamelotTheatre.org.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.

Dann Hauser, Camelot Theatre executive director, left, and artistic director Shawn Ramagos outside the Camelot Theatre in Talent with the lineup for the 2020 season on display. Photo by Maureen Flanagan Battistella