'Spotlight on Karen Carpenter'

The smooth sounds of the 1970s duo, the Carpenters, will come alive in the Camelot Theatre's last musical spotlight of 2009, "Spotlight on Karen Carpenter."

The brother-and-sister duo started performing in the 1960s and were signed by A&M Records in 1969. Karen Carpenter played the drums and sang while her brother Richard played the piano. As their musical success grew, Richard urged Carpenter to get out from behind the drum set and focus on singing. Carpenter, who had always considered herself a drummer who sings, became famous for her expressive contralto voice. "Top of the World," "We've Only Just Begun," "Close to You," "Rainy Days and Monday" and "For All We Know" are among the Carpenter's lasting hits. Over the years, Carpenter developed an eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, which was linked to her death in 1983 at age 32 from heart failure.

"In addition to having a gorgeous voice and a famous act with her brother, she brought worldwide attention to eating disorders," said Gayle Wilson, who wrote the script.

The show will preview at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12. The show will open at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, and will run at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays through Sunday, Nov. 22.

"Spotlight on Karen Carpenter" stars Wilson and additional vocals by Kathy Campbell and Donna Bishop. Musical direction and arrangements are by Dal Carver. The five-piece band includes Campbell on keyboard and flute, Bishop on guitar, harmonica and keyboard, Don Harriss on keyboard, Jim Calhoun on bass and Steve Sutfin on drums. Narration is by Brian O'Connor.

"Richard Carpenter played piano so all of their music is in heavy keyboard," said Wilson.

Wilson, who lives in Ashland, has been performing in the Rogue Valley for 20 years, and has performed in Camelot's spotlights on Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Patti Page, The Andrews Sisters and Girl Singers of the Big Band Era. She also plays with a six-piece dance band, a jazz trio and a three-piece light rock trio at weddings, wineries, Avalon Bar and Grill in Talent and The Wild Goose Cafe in Ashland. In addition to music, Wilson appears on Channel 9 on the "Southern Oregon Travelogue" every weekend.

Campbell performs with the Rogue Community College jazz band and the Southern Oregon Jazz Orchestra. She also is the keyboardist and vocalist for the Center for Spiritual Living in Medford and a substitute teacher. Campbell has appeared in several Camelot shows including the "Spotlight on Tony Bennett."

Bishop has played with several musical groups for the last 20 years, including 19 years with Wilson. She performs on the third Thursday every month with Wilson at The Wild Goose.

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.

Calhoun has been performing throughout Oregon and California since the 1970s. He spent seven seasons with the Rogue Valley Symphony and has also performed at the Britt Music Festival, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. Calhoun has appeared in Camelot's spotlights on Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, Tony Bennett and Duke Ellington.

Sutfin has played drums for 40 years. He started in Los Angeles and worked the dance club circuit, touring from Oklahoma to Alaska. He now works as Camelot's resident drummer and photographer.

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

The musicians will play 21 songs taken from the Carpenters' 13 albums, including "Carpenters" and "Close to You."

"Her life is fascinating and her music is fascinating and her music lives on," said Wilson.

"I've come to have a much deeper respect since I've studied her in the last six months."

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 theatre box office from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and one hour before performances. Call 535-5250.

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