Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Story
Ivoryton Playhouse
Review by Zander Opper | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's recent reviews of Relativity and The Piano Lesson

Michael Marotta and Kim Rachelle Harris
Photo by Anne Hudson
Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Story, currently playing at Ivoryton Playhouse, is much more than just an evening of nostalgic tunes and anecdotes about Rosemary Clooney. It is a remarkable character study, with a stupendous performance by Kim Rachelle Harris as the aforementioned star.

Yes, there are the signature songs associated with Clooney that are performed throughout the show, from "Come On-a My House" and "Tenderly" to "Hey There" and "Count Your Blessings." But the authors of this show, Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman, incisively delve into Rosemary Clooney's life, warts and all. While this may make it sound like an unappetizing evening of theatre, it is anything but: We see Clooney at all stages of her life and there are definitely many pleasures throughout the show. What makes this show so amazing is that the audience is allowed to fully experience all the aspects of this star's life, and the result is both richly satisfying and deeply moving.

Previously presented at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Tenderly begins at a low point in Rosemary Clooney's life, specifically her nervous breakdown and subsequent hospitalization in a mental institution in the 1960s. The opening scene shows Rosemary meeting her psychiatrist for the first time and their initial session does not go at all smoothly. Michael Marotta plays Clooney's doctor brilliantly, and he is called on to enact all the other characters in Rosemary's life, as well, from Bing Crosby and Jose Ferrer to Rosemary's mother and sister. Marotta not only accomplishes this difficult task flawlessly, but believably, too. It is always clear who he is playing at any given moment, sometimes just with the addition of a scarf or a hat (the excellent costume design is by Rebecca Welles).

The show proves to be thoroughly entertaining and even transcendent. Much of the credit for this accomplishment goes to Kim Rachelle Harris, who gives more than just an impersonation of Rosemary Clooney. She completely embodies Clooney, getting the right look and singing style down precisely. It is easy to be enchanted by the Rosemary Clooney that Harris presents, and that spell lingers long after the final curtain has come down.

Credit must also go to the director and choreographer Brian Feehan, who excels at presenting moments that are terrifically entertaining (my favorite being Clooney and Bing Crosby on stools, performing "How About You?" in the second act) and moments that are heartbreaking (for instance, Clooney's detailed and harrowing description of the pills she takes).

From the vibrant scenic design by William Russell Stark to the small onstage orchestra, splendidly led by musical director Daniel Brandl, all the elements of the production align precisely to form as vivid and full a portrait of Rosemary Clooney's life as one could possibly imagine. So, by all means, come to see Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Story at Ivoryton Playhouse to hum along to such Clooney classics as "Botch-A-Me," "Someone to Watch Over Me," and the finale, "This Ole House." Just don't be surprised if the show doesn't also manage to take your breath away, as well.

Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Story continues performances at Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, CT through November 13, 2016. For tickets, please visit or call the box office at 860-767-7318.