Monday, November 18, 2019

Tenderly—Portland Musical Theater Company—SE Portland



          What Price Success?!

    This two-character musical is based on the life of Rosemary Clooney.  It is written by Janet Yates and Mark Friedman and is directed and choreographed by Sharon Mann with musical direction and Producer, Deanna Maio.  It is playing at the Odd Fellows Lodge, 10282 SE Main St. in Milwaukee, OR, through November 24th.  For more information, go to their site at www.portlandmusicaltheater.org

    Wanna be a superstar?  Hope you’ve got your Will in order then, as the price often seems to be an untimely death, preceded by broken marriages, abuse of alcohol, and an unhealthy mixture of pills.  Clooney eventually did clean herself up but seems to be an exception, not the rule.  And, with opioids constantly in the news now, this is a very timely story to tell.

    To be honest, I knew very little about Clooney.  I knew she was a jazz singer, was married to Jose Ferrer, was the aunt of George Clooney and starred in the classic film, White Christmas…and that’s it.  But Maio and company has opened our eyes, not only to her talent but the uglier side of what it costs to get there.
The setting is very clever, as most of it takes place in a Doctor Monk’s (Mace Archer) office, a psychiatrist who was her therapist for many months after she was committed to a hospital after Clooney’s (Deanna Maio) nervous breakdown.  While there she recalls, in a flashback format of scenes and songs (all other roles are played by Archer), her years leading up to this junction.

    She enacts the painful times when her mother abandoned the family, and her father was absent most of the time, being raised essentially by her Grandmother.  But there were some happy memories with her sister, Betty, and how they broke into show biz together on the radio, and on tour in the Big Band era.  And then came a recording contract, but it was for just Rosie, not her sister, and so the rest of the entertainment journeys was hers to forge alone.

    She did meet and marry the fiery-tempered, great actor, Jose Ferrer and they had children, but his abuse of alcohol and flings with other women finally broke them up.  She did have some great buds in Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby but it was not enough to save her from the bouts of depression and self-doubt.  She finally adopted pills as her buffer and, before last stop before bottom, met Dr. monk and began the road to recovery.

    All her famous songs are here, too:  Hey, There; Sisters; Count Your Blessings; Paper Moon; Come on-A My House; Tenderly; and, one of my favorites, Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair.  All these tunes well presented by Maio and often joined in by Archer.  Mann has done an amazing job of taking a simple stage and transforming it, with two perfect actors, into a tale of hope and warning of the price of success.

    Archer has an extremely difficult role of playing Clooney’s husbands, lovers, mother and sister, and some famous stars and he does it, transforming in a flash to these characters and yet not trying to imitate them but play their essence.  Great job!

    And with Maio, it also has been a long journey, being privy myself to the last four years, when her company began as a dream and now is a successful reality.  Not only is she an accomplished jazz singer herself, having also directed and performed in musical revues and directed youth in showcases, but can now add enacting a very juicy role, that of a star’s descent into madness, for her crowning glory.  She is magnificent and more then once I got choked up myself while watching her.  She is a star in the same magnitude of Clooney but has the smarts to avoid Clooney’s pitfalls.  “May She Live Long and Prosper!”

    I highly recommend this production, as the performances are not to be missed.  But get your tickets Now as the last weekend is selling out fast.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

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