TENDERLY: The Rosemary Clooney Musical: Delightful, Enchanting, and Very Real


For further information, call: Bob Bowersox at 302-540-6102

For the February 7 issue of KONKLIFE – COVER STORY

TENDERLY: The Rosemary Clooney Musical: Delightful, Enchanting, and Very Real


Spoiler Alert: Don’t expect the Red Barn’s new show “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical” to be one of those jukebox musicals where a long-gone star of yesteryear is reanimated by a talented actor who fills the evening rendering a string of dusty tunes.

Oh, there are songs a-plenty, to be sure, sung by a very talented songstress, but this is most certainly not a simple string of golden oldies. What it is, is an exquisite portrait of a woman whose grace and voice were the perfection of elegance and professional success in her day, while her private life devolved into a shambles of alcohol and drug addiction, philandering husbands, and personal tragedy. But as with all great stories, her resurrection from her dark times leaves us elated, cheering, and moved.

It is, in the end, what you might call a “play with music”. But it is so much more than that.

“Tenderly” opens Tuesday at the Red Barn and runs through March 16. It stars the multi-talented Kim Schroeder Long as Rosemary, who has flown in to play the role, supported by Key West’s David Black, who plays a multitude of different characters who figured prominently in Clooney’s life. The play is directed by the Red Barn’s Joy Hawkins. All curtains are at 8 pm.

“Her story’s pretty compelling,” Long said. “Superficially, it’s the music, of course, but it turns out to be so much more than that. The songs just help tell the story. There’s a lot of profound truth about the human condition and experience that we get to mine through that story. That’s what’s most satisfying to me.”

Written by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman, “Tenderly” takes us deep into the life of Rosemary Clooney, who found success across many fields – recordings, movies, television, and concerts. Using songs as touchstones, the imaginative script moves back and forth through more than 30 years of the singer’s life. It looks at her challenging childhood – abandoned by her family, and forced to be responsible for her siblings at a young age; at her early success; and at the betrayals and tragedies that she had to walk through while trying to maintain that “my life is perfect” image that celebrities are expected to show us.

The play opens in a rehab facility in 1968, after Clooney has had a nervous breakdown, a product of her addictions to pills and alcohol, stress, and the loss of her best friend, Robert Kennedy – she was just a few feet from him the night he was assassinated. She talks through her life’s moments with a psychiatrist – one of the many roles Black inhabits, and the play takes off from there, using Clooney’s many hits to draw us through her life’s moments—both the up’s and the down’s.

The music’s wonderful – songs you’ve heard but may not have attributed to Clooney: her big hits like “Come On-A My House”, “Mambo Italiano”, “This Old House”, “Straighten Up And Fly Right”, “Hey, There”, and “Tenderly” are joined by those she garnered in later life when she emerged from the dark times as a respected jazz singer – “I Remember You”, “Have I Stayed Too Long At The Fair”, and many more.

“I think the music and the story blend perfectly,” Long said. “I think a lot of times we look at celebrities and their problems as something only celebrities have, but with Rosie, her struggles were very essentially human. She struggled with her identity as Rosie the person and Rosie the star, as many of us do with who we are and how that’s different from the way we’re perceived by others. I’m glad that people leave the show thinking, wow, that was really true about me too.”

Musical accompaniment for the show will be provided by an extraordinary band, made up of Jim Rice on piano, Joe Dallas on bass, and Daniel Clark on drums.

Tickets for “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical” can be had by visiting redbarntheatre.com/tickets or calling 305-296-9911. There will be a catered reception following the Opening Night performance on February 19 and ticketholders for that evening are invited to join the cast and crew. And there will be a Talkback Session with the cast and director after the performance on Friday, February 22. The audience that night is encouraged to remain and discuss the play.

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marky pierson