Tenderly – Review by Marlene S. Gaylinn

Norwalk’s Music Theatre of CT (MTC) under the directions of Kevin Connors and Jim Schilling, is currently presenting an entertaining production of “Tenderly, The Rosemary Clooney Musical,” by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Freedman. Featured are Susan Haefner and John Tracy Eagan. Both singing-actors are professional, Equity members.

Those of a certain age may recall when “Com on – a My House” soared to the top of the popular music charts and heard Rosemary Clooney for the first time. It was 1951 and the singer was a refreshing novelty as was this suggestive, “Com’on …” song by Ross Bagdasarian and William Saroyan. Although of Irish Catholic heritage, the singer’s sexy rendition of this catchy, Italian/Armenian flavored tune was what suddenly spread Clooney’s popularity across our nation.

Folks who saw and heard Rosemary Clooney may agree that Susan Haefner closely personifies her. Whether you are familiar with the star or not, MTC’s audience is held spellbound while Haefner recaptures this once famous singer’s outdated song-styles. This is no easy task as Clooney’s renditions ranged from the tender and romantic to crazy jive and jazz. Haefner also takes on several, highly emotional scenes successfully, despite the risks of overplaying her role.

Co-starring is John Tracy Eagan. He plays “The Doctor” and several other fast-paced male and female roles which are a bit confusing to follow. Never the less, some of Eagan’s characters are definitely amusing. In the song and dance number entitled, “Sisters,” Eagan turns into Clooney’s high-pitched voiced sister and although he happens to be a big guy, he surprisingly partners Haefner though Chris McNiff’s choreography with finesse.

The songs are arranged according to the ups and downs depicted in Clooney’s life-story. Thus, the romantic “Hey There” is contrasted with “The Hawaiian War Chant.” Among other contrasting songs are “Count Your Blessings” and “Mambo Italiano” which had the MTC audience clapping in rhythm.

Outstanding is the Art Deco-style set designed by Lindsay Fuori. Under R.J. Romeo’s finely-tuned lighting, Fuori’s mauve-colored backdrop magically changes to shades of red, blue and green and this technical trick promotes the changing moods of each scene. Musical Director, David Wolfson is at the piano along with Rich Zurkowsky on the bass and Steve Musitano on the drums ensuring that the production does not miss a beat.

MTC’s entertaining musical runs until October 3rd 2021.