'Spotlight on Barry Manilow'

Camelot Theatre will tell the story of how an unconfident youth became "the showman of our generation" (Rolling Stone) in its "Spotlight on Barry Manilow."

According to Livia Genise, Camelot's artistic director, a spotlight on the singer and songwriter, a recipient of numerous Grammy, Emmy and Tony awards, is long overdue.

"I saw him live decades ago at the Universal Amphitheater and fell in love with his persona," Genise gushes. "I literally just wanted to hug him. One of my daughters is even named Mandy after his song."

Kurt Howard Bernhardt, a former Oregon Shakespeare Festival company member, will sing 23 of Manilow's songs, including his original compositions, such as "I Made It Through the Rain," "Copacabana" and "Could It Be Magic," and the huge hits he didn't write, such as "Mandy" and "Can't Smile Without You."

"Kurt doesn't try to do an impersonation of any kind, but he really connects as a singer and performer with the intense emotionality of Barry Manilow's music," says director Presila Quinby.

Bernhardt will be backed by a quintet that includes Kathy Campbell on synthesizer, Steve Fain on bass, Brent Olstad on piano, Steve Sutfin on drums and Peter Spring on flute and tenor and soprano sax.

Performances are set for 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 26 through Oct. 6, at Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave., Talent.

Between songs, Shirley Patton, a longtime member of OSF, will tell Manilow's story. The script, written by Andi Slavin, is based on several biographies of Manilow, Quinby says.

"Manilow had a great childhood, and from a very early age was interested in music and from a very early age was not interested in singing," Quinby says.

"In fact, when he was just a kid, his grandfather asked him to sing 'Happy Birthday' on a recording and he broke down crying, saying 'Don't make me sing.' "

Quinby says the script includes numerous other accounts where friends and family had to twist Manilow's arm to get him to sing.

Today, Manilow sits at the top of Adult Contemporary charts, according to Radio & Records Magazine, "with no less than 25 consecutive Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1975 and 1983," reads the artist's Facebook page.

Manilow has released more than 40 albums, including 29 platinum-certified ones, and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame in 2012.

Tickets to the "Spotlight on Barry Manilow," which is the last spotlight of the season, cost $18 for the Sept. 26 preview and $24 for all other performances. Tickets are available at the theater box office and www.camelottheatre.org or by calling 541-535-5250.

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