‘Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical’ at ETC
The monolithic image of the 1950s as a period of relative stability in American culture may have some validity when viewed from afar, but get close to everyone who has lived through it, especially a talented performer. and high level like the great singer. Rosemary Clooney, and that stable image begins to dissolve. In Tenderly, the two-person musical that opens the 2021-22 season of the Ensemble Theater Company on Saturday, October 9, we learn how difficult, lonely and disruptive the Eisenhower era could be, even for those who seem to embody it.
Stunning actress and singer Linda Purl plays Rosie, with David Engel as therapist and all the other characters on this musical journey through the extraordinary life story of Clooney. There will be a jazz combo on stage with the performers, to better fuel Purl’s vocal surges in the intoxicating atmosphere of Clooney’s vast catalog.
For director Jenny Sullivan, the show offers something that we probably all need right now – “a play about survival.” Clooney’s story begins with a broken home; When she was just 13, her mother remarried and bailed out Rosemary and her sister, Betty, leaving them with their father and his drinking problem. The girls discovered a knack for singing, became “The Clooney Sisters”, went on the radio, and hit the road as star singers in a touring big band led by Tony Pastor, while they were still teenage girls. In three years, Betty had had enough of life, but Rosemary had become addicted. In 1949, when Betty returned to Cincinnati, Rosie moved to New York and signed a solo recording contract with Columbia Records.
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The flash success Clooney then enjoyed had all the schizophrenic qualities of the American music business of the 1950s. She recorded some of the most sophisticated jazz albums of the era, including the classic 1956 collaboration with Duke Ellington and his orchestra, Blue rose. Yet what made her famous enough to deserve a co-headliner with Duke Ellington was something else entirely – novelty songs such as the Italian dialect number “Come On-a My House”, which have stuck with her. proposed by producer Mitch Miller. These were songs Rosie hated, but audiences loved.
The 1960s were not kind to Rosemary Clooney. She found her exceptional profession as a singer made obsolete and seemingly irrelevant by the rise of rock and roll. When her close friend Robert Kennedy ran for president in 1968, she met him at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles for what should have been a victory celebration. Clooney was only steps away from Kennedy when he was assassinated. Within months, she was sidelined with depression and an addiction to prescription drugs, conditions that would prevent her from gambling until her return in the 1970s.
Linda Purl knew Rosemary Clooney, and she has fond memories of Clooney during her return period. She describes the songs in the series as “like little one-act pieces.” While telling the story of Clooney, Purl will sing classics such as “I Remember You”, “Sway”, “I get along just fine without you” and “Have I been at the fair too long?” If you’ve ever been excited about the vocal styles of Diana Krall, Barbra Streisand or Celine Dion, you owe it to yourself to hear Purl sing Rosemary Clooney. Tenderly will give you a new idea of where this sound and musical tradition came from and what it cost the people who created it.
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