When Ashland composer and performer Laurelia Derocher presented her idea for "Spotlight on Linda Ronstadt" to Camelot Theatre Artistic Director Livia Genise, she had no idea of where the journey would take her — in some unexpected directions.
"Spotlight on Linda Ronstadt" became a reality: It plays at Camelot through Sunday, Sept. 23. Derocher is joined onstage by duet partner and narrator David Gabriel. The show is directed by Presila Quinby with musical arrangements by Dal Carver. "Spotlight" features more than 20 of Ronstadt's greatest hits, including "Blue Bayou," "That'll Be the Day," "Desperado" and "Skylark."
Derocher says she was attracted to Ronstadt's work because the performer was such a trailblazer for women in the music industry.
"She was a risk-taker," Derocher says. "She followed her heart in choosing material. She was willing to try new things."
Derocher ticks off the milestones of Ronstadt's career: She was a rock star in the '70s and '80s; in the '80s, she also performed in a Broadway production of "Pirates of Penzance" and recorded a country-western album with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris; the '90s brought a series of albums of American standards with lush arrangements by Nelson Riddle.
Derocher was particularly impressed with Ronstadt's decision to record "Canciones de Mi Padre," a collection of traditional Mexican songs handed down through Ronstadt's family.
"She gave free or low-cost performances of her show in California and throughout the Southwest. She really wanted to share this music with the Mexican community."
Derocher has an unlikely background for all of this. She holds a bachelor's degree in economics and international relations and a master's degree in organizational development.
"I've always been drawn to the people side of business," she says. She spent 20 years in Chicago with a career in business communications and technical writing.
Along the way, she became accredited in James Twyman's Seminary of Spiritual Peacemaking, and she began speaking at Unity churches around the country and acting as a coach for seminarians in training all over the world.
"I find that the roles that come to me are just what I need in my own life at a particular time," Derocher says.
She notes that she was cast as Eliza in "My Fair Lady" just when she was dealing with a controlling relationship. Her idea to do the Ronstadt spotlight came when she was looking for a musical avenue to inspire others to follow their own passions.
"At this juncture, I want to continue these kinds of shows," she says. "I want to assemble a catalog of uplifting and inspirational material."
She is working with a local producer for a revue to be called "Better Late Than Sooner: Achieving Your Dream When the Time is Ripe." The show will feature Derocher's own compositions as well as Broadway music and pop tunes along with direct audience interaction.
"I want to give people a renewed sense of faith in themselves," she says. "I've always loved theater.
"I was drawn to it because I see music and musical theater as the physical expression of what we all are going through. The lyrics offer insight to understanding ourselves better. When I perform, I want to inspire, to uplift, as well as entertain."
Derocher even has coined a word for what she is doing. She calls herself an "inspir-tainer."