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TENDERLY: THE ROSEMARY CLOONEY MUSICAL presented by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park through Jan. 4. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the opening Friday performance.
Before seeing this show, my knowledge about the late Rosemary Clooney was limited to the fact that she: got her start locally; was in the movie musical, “White Christmas;” is the sister of former, local news-anchor Nick, and aunt of actor George; appeared on the TV show, “E.R.,” and was mother of actor Miguel Ferrer.
The show uses her psychoanalysis therapy sessions, following a nervous breakdown in 1968, to chronicle her life in flashback and song.
Susan Haefner does an excellent job in the title role, giving Clooney a brassy honesty that rings true. Vocally strong, she does an excellent job of recreating Clooney’s musical performances.
Actor Michael Marotta, who Playhouse audiences may recognize as Herr Schultz in last season’s “Cabaret,” is credited in the program as The Doctor. Marotta also does excellent work. His character’s eight-year relationship with Clooney, as her therapist, grows naturally throughout the show. He also shows great versatility in taking on the roles of family and friends in the flashbacks.
Together, favorites moments include their duets with Moratta portraying sister Betty and long-time friend Bing Crosby. Their final scene together, as former-therapist and ex-patient, is a great emotional ending for the characters.
As jukebox musicals go, this one by Janet Yates Vogt and Cincinnati-native Mark Friedman, is definitely on the more successful side, in integrating the artist’s musical catalog, with an interesting book. Since my knowledge of The Kennedys begins with Jack and Bobby, I was a little lost with the reference to “Ethel” when Bobby’s assassination was discussed. I was also unclear if there were consequences of Clooney violating her “morality clause” when she began her affair with Ferrer.
Director Blake Robison does an excellent job of blocking the show in the intimate, thrust space. The show is well-paced and he brings solid performances out of his actors. Also excellent is music director Scot Woolley insetting the tone for the vocal performances. He is very fun to watch as the leads the on stage trio, giving some of the musical numbers a night club feel. (I’m assuming it was a trio, from my seat I could only see Scot and the musicians are not credited in the program.) Dee Anne Bryll’s choreography is fun to watch and does a great job of capturing the era.
On the technical side, the excellent work by Set Designer Bill Clarke, Costume Designer Bill Black, Lighting Designer Phil Monat and Sound Designer Jeremy J. Lee, bring the whole show together.
TENDERLY is extremely well-done and a great trip down memory-lane for Rosemary Clooney fans, and for me an interesting and entertaining look into an icon’s career.
My rating: 4.75 out of 5
I would enjoy hearing what you think about the show or my review. All I ask is that you express your opinion without attacking someone else’s opinion. You can post your comments below.
3 responses to “TENDERLY: THE ROSEMARY CLOONEY MUSICAL Review”
Loved the show. Found myself laughing and also crying. I never knew Rosemary had such a terrible childhood. I find myself humming many of the songs I heard still a week later. This is a DONT MISSshow!
I thought it was a wonderful show in all aspects and agree with your review, although you could have magnified your review of Michael Marotta. As a reviewer I was glad that you stated upfront your ignorance about Rosemary Clooney and the Kennedy’s (Ethel was Bobbies wife). I think it would give depth to your reviews if you read more deeply in cultural history before seeing a show. By the way, I will profess my own ignorance: what is a jukebox musical?
Hi John. Thank you for taking the time to write. When I see a show, I go in cold on purpose. I don’t think it is fair to ask an audience member to do research before every show they see. IMHO, the work needs to stand on its own. I only mentioned it because that was the only name I didn’t recognize and I thought the authors may find that information useful. I try not to give too much information away in my reviews, but using terms like “excellent” and “shows great versatility” are indeed compliments. Please remember, I saw the show over 3 weeks and 30 or so performances ago. I was in contact with Mr. Moratta about a week into the run and he told me that he and Haefner are still finding new things to explore and the show is getting stronger every night.
From wikipedia: A jukebox musical is a stage or film musical that uses previously released popular songs as its musical score. Usually the songs have in common a connection with a particular popular musician or group — because they were either written by, or for, the artists in question, or at least covered by them. You can follow this link to see a list of the “top ten” jukebox musicals. http://plays.about.com/od/musicals/a/Jukebox-Musicals.htm