Oregon Stage Works is staging a rousing new musical about the Old West, "The Tales of Fannie Keenan, Better Known as Dora Hand." Music and lyrics are by Grammy-nominated composer and actor Mark Turnbull who also plays one of the characters in the show. Turnbull and Doug Rowe collaborated on the book. Rowe, who spent 20 years as the artistic and executive director of the Laguna Playhouse in California, is directing.

Oregon Stage Works is staging a rousing new musical about the Old West, "The Tales of Fannie Keenan, Better Known as Dora Hand." Music and lyrics are by Grammy-nominated composer and actor Mark Turnbull who also plays one of the characters in the show. Turnbull and Doug Rowe collaborated on the book. Rowe, who spent 20 years as the artistic and executive director of the Laguna Playhouse in California, is directing.

"Dora Hand" opens at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 29, at 191 A St., Ashland, and runs at 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays and at 4 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 29. A preview will take place at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, for $15.

Based on a true story "Dora Hand" brings to life the vivid figures and turbulent times that characterized the opening of the West. Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and George Armstrong Custer are all here. And so are the women. Central among them is Dora Hand, an opera singer who flees Europe for Dodge City to escape her husband.

"In Dodge City she leads a double life," Turnbull said, "Fannie Keenan and Dora Hand. By night she is a saloon-hall singer and brothel madam to survive. By day she works tirelessly for the community visiting hospitals and taking care of children."

"The streets of Dodge City Are run by committee The citizens each take a stand. Half of them hate Fannie Keenan, Half of them love Dora Hand."

Hand's fierce independence and charisma attract two rivals: James "Hound Dog" Kelly, the mayor of rough-and-tumble Dodge City, and Spike Kennedy, the cultured son of a Quaker cattle baron. The story moves back and forth between Kennedy's ranch in Texas and the Alhambra Saloon in Kansas, run by Kelly.

Turnbull calls his unusual take on the western "a campfire opera" since it was originally done around a campfire. "It's almost through-sung," he explained. "There is a lot of music — ensemble pieces, solo pieces. Everybody gets a chance to shine."

"The first time we met," Rowe recalled, "Mark had been working on this play. I was artistic director at Laguna. Mark said, 'I've got this song — wait. It's in the sock drawer.' That song is in the show."

Turnbull happened upon the story of Dora Hand in the library in Laguna. "I saw a two-paragraph synopsis in a book beneath my chair: 'Shady Ladies of the West.'" Turnbull said. "I turned to the story and it hit me immediately — this is a musical."

The show began as a staged reading at the Laguna Playhouse in California. Selections were then chosen to represent the United States in the Theatre Festival accompanying the Olympics in Los Angeles. The OSW staging will be the musical's first full production. Heading the cast is Sarah Jane Nelson, a veteran of Broadway, the Guthrie Theatre, New York's Public Theatre as well as TV. She will appear in two Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2009 productions.

Joining her is Tamara Marston, recently seen in OSW's "The Great American Trailer Park Musical." Cast member John Stadelman has acted with OSF, Portland Repertory Theatre and the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival. He joins Geoffrey Riley, who last appeared in Camelot's "Zorba," and Mia Charamonte, returning to OSW after "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" and film and theater work in Los Angeles.

The cast also includes James David Larson, last seen in SOU's production of "Urinetown"; J. R. Storment, who appeared in OSW's "The Great American Trailer Park Musical"; Julie Excell, making her OSW debut after theatre work in Colorado; and Kieran Devine, Merrill Smith, Julianna Wheeler, Holly Johnson and Norm Crane.

The stage manager is Lisa Marie Wingbermuehle, with choreography by Wendy Spurgeon. Set design is by Doug Ham, with lighting design by Phil Shaw and costume design by Donna Klein. Eric Kresh is in charge of props. Set painting is by Charles Couraud, with set construction by Brian Wallace and Rowdy Yates. Aaron Blenkush is the musical accompanist, assisted by Jessica Hall. Musical arranger is Terrence Alaric Levitt.

Tickets are $22 and $15 for students 21 and under. Tickets are available at oregonstageworks.org; Grocery Outlet, Medford and the Music Coop, Ashland. The theater will also offer special $18 tickets for seniors 65 and over at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 31, and 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5.

Lark's Restaurant is offering a special discount for patrons of "Dora Hand" from Aug. 29 through Sept. 29. Present a ticket stub from the show and receive 10 percent off food and drinks.

Call 482-2334