Camelot Theatre has had a great deal of success with their "Spotlight On!" series, and with good reason; the shows are fresh, well-directed, filled with great music and interesting facts, and as such tend to pack out the house reliably.
The performance Saturday last of "Spotlight On Peter, Paul and Mary" was no exception, a fact to which this review will shortly attest. However, I have a bone to pick first.
On the evening in question, the crowd was enthusiastic, which was great. However, there was one particular patron, a drunken middle-aged woman in the front row, who insisted on ruining the performance by shouting out her opinion to the performers, singing along so loudly with the artists that she seemed to think she was actually in the show, and boozily harassing the patrons in the row behind her.
The low point of her "performance" came during a rather sweet and sensitive rendition of "Puff the Magic Dragon," during which she seemed to feel that the best response to the music was to flail her arms about in an attempt to get the senior couple directly behind her to sing as badly and obnoxiously as she was.
Folks like this will generally ruin the show for the majority of a paying audience. In this case, that's a group of more than 150 people, since the house was at near capacity. This kind of boorish individual should be removed by house managers as soon as the nuisance begins.
With that said, the show was a great success, with many classic favorites by the luminary American folk trio performed with great aplomb by Erik Connolly, Billy King, and Brianna Gowland.
Connolly, of course, is a long-time favorite at Camelot, with many show credits under his belt, most notably as JC himself in "Jesus Christ Superstar" and more recently as Valjean in "Les Miserables." His voice never fails to disappoint, and he shone in this production.
King, too, although only on his third go-around at the theater, was a solid choice, with good vocals that occasionally ran a little flat but were generally strong. Great performances both, but the show really belonged to Gowland, who was rightly the center of attention in her red ensemble, smack bang in the middle of downstage center.
Gowland is one of those lucky actors who is both pretty and comically gifted, so she was able to play both sides of the Peter, Paul and Mary songbook very well. Rubber-faced where appropriate, soulful and transfixing where necessary, Gowland is a lanky drink of water who knows how to quench the throats of a performance-thirsty audience.
Bob Haworth — a Peter Coyote look-alike with a gift for banjo strumming — had the unenviable task of narrating the evening as well as playing three separate instruments, which he did with little problem.
Director Presila Quinby took care to cover all the songs that Peter, Paul and Mary fans would want to hear, from the haunting "500 Miles" (which was written by Hedy West, but covered by the three) to such raucous classics as "I'm in Love with a Big Blue Frog", wherein Connolly and Gowland both busted out kazoos and went to town, much to the delight of their patrons. The show delivered a pitch-perfect combination of songs that were a good reflection of the innocence, and lost innocence, of the time in which the famous threesome lived.
Supporting musicians Peter Koerella and Matte Stuart were also strong. Koerella was a notably sensitive presence on the double bass — his discreet but polished performance did not go unnoticed.
Overall, this is a great evening of music that showcases an important era in protest music and will be sure to leave you humming. If, like Pete Seeger, you're wondering where all the flowers might have gone, you can find three of them blooming on the stage at Camelot Theatre until June 11.
"Spotlight On Peter, Paul and Mary" is directed by Presila Quinby, script by Andi Slavin. Camelot Theatre is at 101 Talent Ave, Talent; 541-535-5250, www.camelottheatre.com.
— Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.