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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
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