'Spotlight on Loretta Lynn'

Loretta Lynn's ladder to Nashville superstardom was a steep one.

Before she was the chart-topping "First Lady of Country Music," Lynn was the daughter of a poor Kentucky coal miner and the second of eight children. At just 14 years old, Lynn married Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn, beginning a love-hate relationship with the man that would last nearly 50 years. Despite his failings as a husband, "Doo," as he was called, bought Lynn her first guitar, encouraged her to play in public and later helped her promote her first release, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." The couple had six children together — four before she was 19 years old.

Despite all the struggles she faced, Lynn wasn't one to throw a pity party. Eventually, her "gutsiness," strong lyrics and concern for women everywhere caught the attention of record producers and artists, including Patsy Cline. By 1982, Lynn could boast 52 Top 10 hits and 16 No. 1 songs.

Several of these top hits, as well as some of Lynn's more controversial songs ("The Pill" about birth control and "Dear Uncle Sam," set during the Vietnam War), will be featured in Camelot Theatre's "Spotlight on Loretta Lynn," directed by Presila Quinby, who describes Lynn as a "risk-taker" and "game-changer."

"She didn't wallow in her blues," Quinby says. "She stood up for herself and stood up for women, and I really admire that. She created a spot for women in country music."

Vocalist Livia Genise, who also is Camelot's artistic director, will portray Lynn in the Spotlight, which previews at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9, opens Friday, Jan. 10, and runs through Sunday, Jan. 19, at the theater, 101 Talent Ave., Talent. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, at 2 p.m. Sundays.

Genise says Lynn has been on her Spotlight shortlist ever since she saw the movie, "The Coal Miner's Daughter," which is based on Lynn's autobiography and features Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones.

The theater commissioned local playwright and Mail Tribune City Editor Cathy Noah to write the script and pianist Brent Olstad to arrange the music. Olstad, guitarist Jef Fretwell, bassist Steve Fain, drummer Steve Sutfin, harmonica player Bob Jackson Miner and rhythm guitarist Scott Woolsey will make up the supporting band.

Miner, who narrates the show, also will accompany Genise for four duets, including three Lynn performed with Conway Twitty and one, "Portland, Oregon," she performed with young rocker Jack White in 2004.

"To do a duet with a guy who is 26 when you are in your late 70s takes a lot of brass," Genise remarks.

Tickets cost $20 for the Jan. 9 preview, $24 for all other shows, and are available at www.camelottheatre.org or by calling 541-535-5250.

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