BECOMING ROSEMARY CLOONEY
For further information, call: Bob Bowersox at 302-540-6102
For the February 28 issue of PARADISE
BECOMING ROSEMARY CLOONEY
When you meet Kim Schroeder Long, the first thing that strikes you is her smile. It’s big, bright, and sincere, underlining a sparkle in the eyes above it. Her long hair frames a pretty, petite face that unaffectedly expresses joy and contentment.
But within seconds, the first thought you have is: how in the world does this woman transform herself into the sassy, brassy girl next door with a troubled soul she is in the hit play, “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical”, now playing to sold out houses at the Red Barn Theatre in Key West?
Because the transformation is nothing short of remarkable, both externally and internally. Kim Long doesn’t just “play” Rosemary Clooney. She “becomes” Rosemary Clooney. Literally everything about her is different offstage to onstage.
“I’m really trying not to ‘perform’ Rosemary,” Long said recently. “There’s a fine line between an impersonation of someone who existed in real life, and an honest ‘embodying’ or ‘inhabiting’ that person. What I want is to let her essence come through me. And I’ve done the work, and performed this play enough that I feel I can trust that what is coming through me is her…true and honest.”
She makes it sound easy. But Long has spent years finding that essence of Rosemary Clooney, arguably one of the biggest stars in American entertainment history…a star who crossed records, radio, TV, films, and concerts, and who was best friends and onstage colleagues with the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and many more.
Long started finding Rosemary years ago.
“I watched every video of her I could,” Long said. “Her TV shows, her interviews, her guest appearances, and even the show Password – she did a lot of those. You get a real sense of who she really was by watching her reactions. I could see how she coped with things. I got a sense of the nuances.”
And then, of course, there was the music. Clooney was one of the most successful recording artists of all time, and Long listened to every song she ever sang a thousand times. Long knew her voice was very similar to Clooney’s in tone and color, but it was the phrasing, the touch, the perfect control Clooney had that she went after. And when you see the show, and you hear Long sing those many Clooney hits, you realize how perfectly she nails it.
But the show is so much more than just the music. It delves deeply into the troubled woman Clooney was, and is a compelling story about the true cost of fame.
“I did a lot of research into her intimate, internal idiosyncrasies, nuances, and struggles,” Long said. “I went to California and talked with people from her life – her showbiz acquaintances – and they gave me a lot of insights into who she really was behind the veneer of being a ‘star’.”
Clooney was an incredibly conflicted person, Long said. She had a rough time melding who she really was and who she felt the rest of the world wanted her to be. Her involvement with drugs and alcohol, and the many disappointments and tragedies in her life led her to a nervous breakdown from which she very nearly didn’t recover.
“What really made the difference for me,” Long said, “was going to her hometown in Kentucky. I met people who knew her just as ‘one of the Clooneys from town’. And her family gave me an enormous insight into who she really was. They took me to her little house on the river in Augusta, KY, and I sat there a long time just absorbing it all. That’s where I really found her…the real her.”
And when you watch the show, it’s apparent that Clooney found Long as well. Her interactions with co-star David Black – who is also remarkable in no less than ten different roles of people in Clooney’s life – are so startlingly three-dimensional that without even realizing it, you’re sure you are really seeing Rosemary Clooney on that stage…you really feel her in front of you. Kim Schroeder Long has disappeared.
“The last thing I do before going onstage every night,” Long said, “is sit and find her ‘headspace’. I just get quiet and open myself up to feeling everything I’ve learned about her, everything I’ve seen or heard. It’s like water closing up over me and she emerges. It brings me such joy to feel her come alive.”
“Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical” runs through Saturday, March 16th. Tickets are already in high demand. You can get them at redbarntheatre.com/tickets or by calling the Box Office at 305-296-9911.
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