'Spotlight on Harold Arlen' at Camelot Theatre

Harold Arlen, the composer who Irving Berlin called "the best of us all," never had the fame of the likes of George Gershwin, Cole Porter or Hoagy Carmichael, but Arlen never looked for fame. He just wrote the best songs anyone had ever heard, from "Paper Moon" to "The Blues in the Night."

His story reveals a life filled with all of the excitement, glamour and humor of the nation's brightest night spots, from the gangsters at The Cotton Club in New York City to the moguls at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Arlen's life also holds the passionate and tragic love story of his beautiful wife, Anya.

"Spotlight on Harold Arlen" will preview at Thursday, Jan. 14, and open Friday, Jan. 15, at Camelot Theatre in Talent. The show will run through Jan. 24, and performances are slated for 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.

The show will feature 23 songs by Arlen, including "The Blues in the Night," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "If I Only Had a Brain," "The Man That Got Away," "That Old Black Magic," "One for My Baby (and One More For the Road," "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "Stormy Weather" and "When the Sun Comes Out."

Vocalists Presila Quinby and Jessica Brandes will appear in the shows, and musical direction and arrangements are by Michael Vannice. The show's live combo will feature Don Harriss on keyboards, Vannice on tenor sax, alto sax, clarinet and flute, Bil Leonhart on guitar, Jim Calhoun on bass and Steve Sutfin on drums.

Charles Cherry wrote the script for the production, and he will provide narration for the shows.

In 2009, Quinby appeared as Mrs. Medlock in the Camelot Theatre production of "The Secret Garden," as Mama in "I Remember Mama" and as Lenya in "Bullshot Crummond." Quinby's other recent credits include Mrs. Muzzy in "Sockdology" and Kate in "Dancing at Lughnasa," also at Camelot Theatre. Quinby has worked for 16 years in dramatic and musical productions around the country and in New York City. On Broadway, Quinby appeared in "Meet Me In St. Louis" and "The Secret Garden" and in the national tour of "Blood Brothers."

Brandes is a graduated of New York University and has worked in many cities across the country. At Camelot Theatre, Brandes has appeared as Sally Bowles in "Cabaret," Jeannie Gourley in "Sockdology" and Chris Mundy in "Dancing at Lughnasa." She also appeared Oregon Cabaret Theatre's production of "Ali Baba."

Cherry also wrote Camelot Theatre's spotlights on Hoagy Carmichael, Julie London and Mel Torme and co-wrote "Spotlight on the Blues." Cherry directed the Camelot Theatre productions of "Fahrenheit 451" and "1984" and appeared in "The Miracle Worker," "1776," "The Beard of Avon," "Man of LaMancha" and "Brigadoon."

Vannice is of Robert Cray and Lowell Fulson fame, and he's also played with Anthony Braxton, Lauren Newton, Bud Shank, The Temptations and the Four Tops. He's collaborated on songs that were recorded by Cray, Eric Clapton and Albert King. He has performed in and written musical arrangements for previous Camelot Theatre spotlights as well as for the Oregon Cabaret Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Green Show.

Calhoun is a regular musician on the Southern Oregon scene. He is a graduate of Southern Oregon State College (now Southern Oregon University), and he performed for seven years with the Rogue Valley Symphony. He's performed at Britt Festivals, OSF and OCT. His appearances at Camelot Theatre include the spotlights on Peggy Lee and Mel Torme.

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 to his credit. He's been a musician with OSF's Green Shows for five years, and he is the touring keyboardist with Ronnie Hawkins and Pat Travers, headlining with Aerosmith, Ted Nugent and Foreigner.

Leonhart is a fingerstyle solo guitarist, and he has been featured with jazz and classical guitarist Charlie Byrd in Downbeat Magazine. He has performed around the country at venues such as Yoshi's in San Francisco and The Blue Note in New York City. He has two CDs to his credit, "Together," which features his wife, Quinby, and "Balmer Prayfal." Leonhart is a regular performer at Paschal Winery in Talent and at the Rogue Regency Hotel in Medford.

Sutfin has worked as a percussionist for more than 40 years. He got his start in the rock clubs of Los Angeles and then toured the Western United States with groups such as The Diamonds and Mose Allison. His concert locales also include Reno and Las Vegas, Nev., and Southeast Asia. Since settling in the Rogue Valley, Sutfin has become Camelot Theatre's resident drummer and photographer.

Tickets cost $14 for the Jan. 14 preview of "Spotlight on Harold Arlen." All other performances cost $18. Reserved seating is available for an additional $2 per ticket. Tickets are available online at www.camelottheatre.org, by calling 535-5250 or at the theater box office from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and one hour before performances. Call 535-5250.

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