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Tenderly, the Rosemary Clooney Musical

a Musical
by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman

COMPANY : ART Station Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : ART Station Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 5538

SHOWING : July 11, 2019 - July 28, 2019



Rosemary’s journey starts with her simple Maysville, Kentucky childhood and follows her rise to Hollywood stardom. With her signature songs woven in and out, we learn both the story of her successes on film, radio, and TV, as well as her struggles in her personal life while her career is fading during the advent of rock-and-roll. "Tenderly" includes classic standards by Irving Berlin, Jerry Ross, Harold Arlen, and many others – with songs such as "Tenderly," "Mambo Italiano," "Sisters," "White Christmas" and more.

Director Karen Beyer
The Doctor Luis Hernandez
Rosemary Clooney Wendy Melkonian
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The Flip Side of Success
by playgoer
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
"This Old House" and "Come On-a My House" were two of Rosemary Clooney’s big hit songs. But you wouldn’t want to go-a to the dysfunctional homes she was raised in. She had a fairly miserable childhood, a fairly miserable marriage to José Ferrer, and a fairly miserable time kicking a pill addiction. "Tenderly" charts the course of her life, framed by her visits to a rehabilitation doctor’s office in which she spills memories and sings the songs for which she’s known. It’s pretty depressing material.

The script tries to leaven the tone by having the doctor play all the other people in Rosemary’s life, from her little sister Betty to Frank Sinatra to Bing Crosby, to other important (if lesser-known) figures in her life. It’s fun to see Luis R. Hernandez slip from one to another, using slight costume changes by Kim Bacastow to augment his posture and voice changes that bring the characters to life, but it’s telling that the most enjoyable moment in the performance I attended was when one of his costume pieces slipped off for a moment, and the marvelous Wendy Melkonian ad-libbed "I almost didn’t recognize you."

Ms. Melkonian is a totally engaging stage personality who plumbs the depths of the role of Rosemary Clooney, but her voice does not have the plummy, throaty quality of the real Ms. Clooney. She sings very well, but only occasionally hits on a tone that is reminiscent of the original. If this were a brighter story, it might not matter as much, since no one can put across a song better than Ms. Melkonian, but the material keeps dragging things down.

Patrick Hutchison’s music direction and his three-piece band keep the songs tuneful throughout, although microphone sound levels didn’t seem consistent throughout the performance I attended, with Mr. Hernandez’s off for a while, it seemed. Karen Beyer’s direction tells the story fluidly, with a minimum of choreography. It’s a pleasant enough production of unpleasant material.

Michael Hidalgo’s sceneography paints an elegant picture, with the band upstage behind a scrim, next to a big blown-up photo of Rosemary Clooney’s face (with Ms. Melkonian’s wig generally mimicking its style). Stage right there’s a dressing room table and stool; stage left there’s the doctor’s desk and a couple of chairs. Center stage is a performance platform. There’s also a foray into the audience as Rosemary loses her marbles during a later-life performance.

It’s a good-looking set, but there seemed to be lighting problems at the performance I attended. The house lights started coming up with one song still left to go in the first act, and the changing colored lights flashing across the stage during that song ("Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair") seemed wildly inappropriate. In the second act, when the lights did the same thing for "Pretty Little Pills," the lighting scheme finally made sense. That doesn’t forgive the technical glitch, however.

"Tenderly" is a generally unpleasant show, and technical foul-ups with sound and lights do nothing to enhance the experience. For fans of Ms. Melkonian and Mr. Hernandez (who were both so wonderful in the MJCCA’s production of "Funny Girl" years ago), or for fans of Rosemary Clooney’s music, the show is worth seeing. Otherwise, taking your memories of Rosemary Clooney from movies and the record player will leave you in a much happier state of mind. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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