Oregon Stage Works will present the new musical 'The Tales of Fannie Keenan, Better Known as Dora Hand.'

New musical revisits the Wild West

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. Previews will take place at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 27 and 28. Preview tickets are $15.

Based on a true story, "Dora Hand" brings to life the vivid figures and turbulent times that characterized the opening of the West. Dora Hand, an opera singer, 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."

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. 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."

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 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.

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