'Tenderly' is an intimate look at Rosemary Clooney's life
Young theatergoers probably know more about Rosemary Clooney's nephew, actor George Clooney, than they do about his aunt, the popular recording artist who was admired as “America's favorite girl singer” in the 1950s and '60s.
The Theatre Factory's production of “Tenderly, the Rosemary Clooney Musical,” will introduce young audiences to — and reacquaint “young at heart” performing arts patrons with — the singer and her music.
Clooney's first hit record as a solo artist was “Come On-a My House” in 1951, followed by “Hey There,” “This Ole House” and “Tenderly.” She also performed in films, including with Bing Crosby in “White Christmas” (1954) and starred in her own TV show.
Despite her successes, she dealt with many problems in her lifetime, including divorce, depression and addiction, before she passed away in 2002.
“Tenderly,” written by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman of Cincinnati, is a two-person show featuring Clooney and her doctor, a psychiatrist who assumes the identities of several people who influenced her throughout her personal and professional life.
“He begins as a detached professional seeking to help her simply as her doctor, but by the end he has developed a true affinity and respect for her,” says Jeremy Kuharcik of Pittsburgh, who portrays the psychiatrist.
As their therapy sessions progress and Clooney dives deeper into her past, the doctor “morphs” into the people she remembers through a series of flashbacks. They include her mother, her sister, and many stars whose career paths crossed hers, including Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Merv Griffin.
Breanna Deutsch of Greensburg plays Clooney and says she is excited to be able to sing her music and tell her story.
“Rosemary's stellar voice is definitely something to admire and I hope I can do it justice in this show, as well as her fun-loving and witty personality,” Deutsch says. “Her fans adored her as well as her colleagues and it's because she worked hard to have a good reputation and a fun-loving attitude.”
“Tenderly” is directed by Katya Shaffer of Jeannette, who says she wanted to direct this show because she has always loved Rosemary Clooney and this is a beautifully written story of her life.
“The biggest challenge is telling her story in a way that truly represents not only her but the other people in her life,” she says. “There is a lot of pressure not only on Breanna to represent Rosemary, but also on Jeremy to bring everyone else to life.”
Deutsch and Kuharcik have acted opposite each other in past productions, including as Mary and Bert in “Mary Poppins” at Comtra Theater in Cranberry, and in “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” at the Theatre Factory, which Shaffer also directed.
Kuharcik also has played Paul Bratter in “Barefoot in the Park” and Billy Flynn in “Chicago.” Deutsch most recently portrayed Ariel in the Actors and Artists of Fayette County production of “The Little Mermaid” at the Geyer Theater in Scottdale.
Shaffer's credits include “You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at Saltsburg High School and “Tuna Christmas” and “Plaid Tidings” at Greensburg Civic Theatre.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.