Arts and Entertainment

Rosemary Clooney tribute 'Tenderly' opens March 16 at Centerstage Theatre

Pictured left to right: Laurie Clothier and Katherine Strohmaier star in “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Songbook,
Pictured left to right: Laurie Clothier and Katherine Strohmaier star in “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Songbook,' which opens at 8 p.m. Friday, March 16, and runs through April 1 at Centerstage Theatre.
— image credit: Photo credit: Michelle Smith Lewis

The solar system’s inner two planets, Mercury and Venus, both put on their best evening displays of the year this month. And so does Centerstage Theatre with its production of “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Songbook," which opens at 8 p.m. Friday, March 16, and runs through April 1.

Two-time Emmy nominee composer/lyricist David Duvall and Alan Bryce, the artistic director of Centerstage, both individually auditioned people for the Rosemary Clooney part. They both liked Katherine Strohmaier, who performed in “My Way,” a Frank Sinatra tribute at Centerstage Theatre, and Laurie Clothier, who is most recently known for her role in “Guys and Dolls" at the Fifth Avenue Theatre. The final decision was to have not only a young Rosemary Clooney, but also an older representation of Clooney that would portray her life with a piercingly honest sentimentality.

I had the privilege to observe a technical rehearsal with Bryce on March 10. I watched  choreographer Chris Nardine rehearsing dance steps and deliveries with both stars. Duvall was setting up music stands for the seven musicians who will help make this event an emotional spin of Rosemary Clooney’s style.

The dedication and relentless energy the cast is painting for this concert is intuitive and brilliant. Both Katherine and Laurie have voices as smooth as silk. These people are consummate professionals who will have the audience leaving with their satisfying tale of Rosemary Clooney’s life.

“Tenderly” is a pop standard published in 1946. It is known for purity in vocal rendition, sincerity in emotional expression, and excellence in performance and audience connection. Rosemary Clooney came into prominence in the early 1950s with the novelty hit “Come On-a My House,” which was co-written by David Seville (the father figure of Alvin and the Chipmunks), and produced by Mitch Miller.

She had success as a jazz vocalist and had her own 1956 syndicated television musical-variety show. Her career languished in the 1960s, partly due to problems related to depression and drug addiction. Clooney revealed in her two autobiographies that she suffered for much of her life from bipolar disorder.

Her career was revived in 1974 when Bing Crosby, her “White Christmas” co-star, asked her to appear with him at a show marking his 50th anniversary in show business. In 1995, she guest-starred in the NBC television medical drama “ER,” (starring with her nephew George Clooney), and received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. She continued to record until her death of lung cancer in 2002.

Centerstage’s production of “Tenderly” will match the March evening displays of Mercury and Venus.  This show will provide real, honest and infectious music that promises to be a gold standard event that could be made-for-TV original.

Check it out

“Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Songbook" runs March 16 through April 1 at the Knutzen Family Theatre, 3200 SW Dash Point Road, Federal Way. There are performances on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $27.50 for adults; $22.50 for seniors, military and students; and $12.50 for youth 17 and under. A special offer is in effect for both performances on Saturday, March 17: four tickets for the price of three. Info: or (253) 661-1444.


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