Tenderly – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

From her humble beginnings in Maysville, Kentucky, growing up in a broken home, in poverty, Rosemary Clooney had the unique ability to open her mouth and allow pure sunshine to sing forth with joy. Until Sunday, October 3, Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk is issuing a gracious invitation to “Come on- a My House” to personally meet this sweetheart of a songbird.

Rosemary Clooney began her career singing with her younger sister Betty when she was just a teenager and grew in stature and popularity until she called Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Kennedy and Merv Griffin close personal friends.

A portrait of her life, the sunny days and the lunar eclipses that darkened many of her nights, is being displayed in all its trials and triumphs in grand musical style. Come learn about a simple girl with a big dream, who looked for laughter and love and found loneliness and loss, who sang like a nightingale with warmth and honesty, and experienced more ups and downs in life than the carnival’s roller coaster. Music is woven in, out and around this personal story by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman, “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical” and it is revealing in all its intimate details.

Susan Haefner is Rosie, an outstanding artist who brings her to life with truth, sincerity and grace. She sings like an angel and creates her with poignancy and power. The daughter of a mother who abandons her and an alcoholic father who was also absent, Rosemary and her sister Betty were forced to support themselves at an early age. Entering and winning a talent contest saved them from starvation and started them early on a career that for Rosie would span decades.

We learn about her big band time, her love affairs and marriages, her successes on the stage and in films, and her addiction to pills that threatened everything she had. Along the way we are blessed with a multitude of songs, like “Sisters,” “I Get Along Without You Very Well,” “Botch-a-Me,” “How About You?” and “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”

John Tracey Egan does a yeoman job as a multitude of characters in Rosie’s life, from her personal therapist, Dr. Victor Monke, after she has a nervous breakdown, to her mother, her sister Betty, her husband Jose Ferrer and more, all the “family” who peopled her dramatic life. An onstage orchestra led by David Wolfson provides great backup for the parade of tunes. Kevin Connors directs this involving show that showcases Rosemary Clooney’s personal bravery and optimism when she sings “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” and her advice to herself in “Straighten Up and Fly Right.”

For tickets ($40-$70), call the Music Theatre of CT, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk (route One) at 203-454-3883 or online at ct.ovationtix.com. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Proof of vaccination is required and safety procedures are in place.

Come learn the legacy, the challenges and the courage that Rosemary Clooney gathered around her and gave so generously to the world. She will be well remembered and loved so tenderly.

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