Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Oh! So Tenderly.

Back in 1954, my something teen -year old self was just entering my senior year in high school. My first real serious boyfriend and I decided to have as our ‘favorite song’ Rosemary Clooney’s “Tenderly”.  You can imagine how my now much older year heart skipped a beat when North Coast Repertory Theatre announced it was mounting, as their ‘off night’ entertainment “Tenderly, The Rosemary Clooney Musical” by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman.

I couldn’t resist.

The two -hour + show is based on the life of Clooney and performed by two experienced actors, Rachel Sorsa and Michael Marotta. Sorsa belts out eighteen of Clooney’s tunes in between the story telling with Marotta playing all the characters in Clooney’s life from her mother to her two husbands, one José Ferrer, who cheated on her from the start, to her brother, her sister and her psychiatrist during a hellish period when the crooner suffered a nervous breakdown after her addiction to sleeping pills.  

Rachel Sorsa and Michael Marotta 
Both actors had previously done the show separately and in different venues. Marotta, who directed, choreographed and acted, originated his role at the Cincinnati Playhouse. Sorsa performed it at Georgia Ensemble Theatre in Atlanta. Together they are a perfect match and play well off each other as the musical history/story unfolds flawlessly. 

The play begins in Beverly Hills, 1968.

Clooney’s story, that can be accessed in book form (Clooney, Rosemary, Girl Singer: An Autobiography, 1999) or on line, is as they say an open book now. Back then my limited knowledge of her was that she was married to actor José Ferrer and that he was an SOB to live with.  She loved him. In their on again/off again marriage  they had five children together.

Some highlights:

Her singing career started with Clooney and her younger sister singing at clubs and barely making a living. After a fashion she was singled out and went on her own; a painful period in her life.

In her TV 1956 show she had a wanna be affair with orchestra leader Nelson Riddle. Both were married and neither budged; they never married each other but eventually married others.

She finally reunited with an earlier flame, American dancer and instructor Dante DePalo and was married to him until her death in 2002 (she was 74) the year she received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.   

Included in her circle of friends were Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and The Kennedy’s, (She was at the Ambassador Hotel when Bobby Kennedy was shot). 

William Saroyan who wrote “Come On –a My House”- sold a million copies. She appeared on the Merv Griffin Show a number of times. 

 Marlene Dietrich, Danny Kaye, Vera Ellen (they appeared in movies together) and a host of others are listed  in a Who's Who of her personal friends, many of whom stood by her throughout her troubled years. Two most loyal were were Crosby and Sibatra.        
Rachel Sorsa with Michael Marotta
With musical direction by Cris O’Bryan and his team, Marty Burnett’s set, Matt Novotny’s lighting design, Elisa Benzoni’s period costumes and Katie Lowe (Sound) and Ryan Ford’s (sound mixer), I could have listened all night even though the voice of course is not Clooney’s, the music and the story belong solely to her.  What a treat.

If you want to take a trip down memory lane, hear some great music (Tenderly, “Only a Paper Moon”, “Bacia Me”,  “Hey There”, “Sisters”), with fine backup musicians and immerse yourself in storytelling at its best and a softer blast in music from the pas, just before Rock 'n Roll, head out to North Coast Rep. in Solana Beach you won’t be sorry. 

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Aug 25th
Organization: North Coast Repertory Theatre
Phone: 858-481-1055
Production Type: Musical Bio
Where: 987 Loma Santa Fe Drive Suite D
Ticket Prices: $49.00
Web: northcoastrep.org:
Photo: Dan Carmody/Georgia Ensemble 

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