Theater review: “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical” at MTC
Norwalk – “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical” is based on the life of the actress / singer, who was once considered America’s favorite singer. The musical written by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman is playing at the Music Theater of Connecticut (MTC) through October 3, marking the first musical to be released by the Norwalk Theater in two years.
This relatively new and inspiring musical biography features many of the singer’s iconic hits such as “Hey There”, “Come On-A My House”, “Count Your Blessing Place of Sheep” by Irving Berlin and the title song, as well as songs that some younger members of the audience may not recognize from the songs that made her famous.
In âTenderly,â Clooney’s journey begins with her humble childhood in the Midwest and her rise to Hollywood stardom, then continues beyond battles with depression to a triumphant return as a jazz singer. The musical numbers remind us why this singer dominated the charts for almost five decades with iconic songs.
Both acts offer an extremely personal and poignant image of the woman whose undeniable talent and unbridled personality have made her a legend. As is usually the case with biographical musicals, I always learn a lot about fame.
Equity performer Susan Haefner plays “Rosie” in her debut at the Musical Theater of Connecticut. As an actress, she has worked on Broadway, on national and international tours, and in regional theaters across the United States. Haefner premiered the role of Rosemary in “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical” at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park for its world premiere. She was also a director / choreographer at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford.
Her portrayal of Clooney is notable for both her acting and singing abilities. Sometimes cruelly believed, sometimes tender, this portrait of the singer is only the most realistic. The style of storytelling prompted Clooney to reluctantly retrace the details of his life with a psychiatrist at Cedar-Sinai Hospital in Beverly Hills, after a blackout on stage. Haefner makes it all very convincing.
As a psychiatrist, Equity member John Treacy Egan helps bring therapy sessions to life. However, the actor also plays all of the “other” important characters in his patient’s life shown in flashback scenes, including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, JosÃ© Ferrer, as well as Clooney’s mother and sister Betty. . Of these he must be a man of song and dance and he does it very well.
Egan has appeared on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in touring productions and in regional theaters, most notably “The Servant of Two Masters” at Yale Rep.
Executive Art Director and Co-Founder Kevin Connors leads the duo with a keen eye for the important details. The trio of musicians is seated on one side of the stage and includes conductor David Wolfson on grand piano, Rich Zurkowsky or Steve Taylor on double bass and Steve Musitano on drums.
Lindsay Fuori’s elegant set design functions as a variety of spaces, with the singer’s “live” performances being presented closer to the front row seats. The costumes designed by Diane Vanderkroef are faithful to the periods in the singer’s life and flatter the wearer. The final dress is completely reminiscent of the style favored by Clooney at the end of her career and the design of the wig adds to the resemblance. The lighting designed by RJ Romeo enhanced the look of all the stages and the lovely choreography was designed by Chris McNiff.
“Tenderly” lasts about 90 minutes plus a fifteen minute intermission. Customers are requested to show proof of vaccination when entering the building and to keep their mask on except when eating or drinking. All performances are in person. Empty seats are not left between parties. The performances take place on Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Nancy Sasso Janis has been writing theater reviews since 2012 to support local theaters. She publishes reviews of over 100 productions each year. In 2016, she became a member of Connecticut Critics’ Circle. She continues to contribute theater news, previews and audition notices on local Patch sites. Reviews of all levels of theatrical productions are posted on Naugatuck Patch and the Patch sites closest to the venue. She recently became a contributor to the Republican American newspaper Waterbury. His weekly column and his theater reviews appear in the Thursday Weekend section of the newspaper.