Come On-A Her House: Is A Dash of Rosemary! the Next Regional Musical Hit?

News   Come On-A Her House: Is A Dash of Rosemary! the Next Regional Musical Hit? A Dash of Rosemary!, the conceptual three-actor musical revue of singer Rosemary Clooney's life, will get its premiere in Minnesota in September following its developmental showcase earlier this year in Manhattan.
(L-R) Nicole Fenstad, Greg Kapp, Jill Roberts in A Dash of Rosemary!
(L-R) Nicole Fenstad, Greg Kapp, Jill Roberts in A Dash of Rosemary! (Photo by Amy Miller)

Co-creator Douglas Kampsen of Red Hope Productions told Playbill On-Line the musical, using songs the late Clooney made famous, will have its first full Equity run for one weekend only in a 900-seat theatre in tiny Sauk Centre, MN, Kampsen's hometown (also the hometown of Sinclair Lewis).

A former teacher of Kampsen's attended the 10-performance run of A Dash of Rosemary! when it was seen in showcase form in Manhattan in March. She told Kampsen it should be done in his hometown, and plans began to send the show to Sauk Centre, outside St. Cloud, MN.

The Equity performers from the New York showcase (which was a piano-and-voice presentation) will repeat their duties in Minnesota. Kampsen conceived A Dash of Rosemary! as a conceptual revue with two actresses respectively representing — but not imitating — the older and younger Clooney, and an actor to play her husbands, Bing Crosby and others.

Jill Roberts plays Woman 1 and Nicole Fenstad is Woman 2. The actor joining them is Gregg Kapp.

My Way, a revue of songs Frank Sinatra made famous, has been a regional hit in recent seasons, and resident theatres are always hungry for small-cast musicals. Entrepreneurial Kampsen foresees regional productions and Off-Broadway. For the premiere, he's been raising the money himself, and hopes the show will one day be something easily transportable to any theatre that cares to book it. The sound of the show and the script, co-written by Kampsen and Kathy Weese, have been expanded since March. A five-piece band mirroring the sound of the small groups Clooney sang with in the last half of her career, is part of the show, with orchestrations by Andy Blanco.

Performances play Sept. 26-28 in a 900-seat theatre in Sauk Centre. It will the first time the new version of the show goes before an audience. Since the March showcase, the script has been trimmed to allow the songs tell more of the story of Clooney's life.

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Writer-director Douglas Kampsen said he's a longtime fan of the singer and actress known for her hits "Hey There" and "Come On-A My House" (and the film, "White Christmas"). Kampsen wanted to pay tribute to Clooney's music and life, without creating a show in which an actress impersonates her.

Clooney died at the age of 74 in 2002. She was born in Maysville, KY. She had struggled with lung cancer in her later years. A final 2001 concert was preserved on disc.

"Our goal is not to imitate her," Kampsen said. "It's impossible and it doesn't seem right."

Kampsen co-wrote the show with Kathy Weese, who choreographs. Kampsen and Weese are performers who have worked largely in regional theatre.

"This idea happened randomly," Kampsen said. "Last year, I was reading People magazine and there was a one-page spread on her and it was lovely, but she's one of the great interpreters of American music of the 20th century. One page was not enough."

The show spans Clooney's 60-year career, from her early days with the Tony Pastor Orchestra, to her later years as a pop/jazz sensation.

Designers of A Dash of Rosemary! are Paul Feraldi (set), Todd Wren (lighting). Musical arrangements are by Jeffrey Buchsbaum.

"As I started to do more research, I realized her life was just as interesting as her music," Kampsen said. "She was able to always get back on her feet and do great things with her music and her life."

Drawing on articles from the Rosemary Clooney website (http://www.rosemaryclooney.com) and sections of her autobiographies, Kampsen and Weese wrote book scenes to the show that focus on milestones in Clooney's life. And A Dash of Rosemary! doesn't shy away from such setbacks as divorce and substance abuse.

The goal was not to sensationalize, but to capture Clooney's "essence," Kampsen said.

Kampsen has packed the piece with such Clooney classics as "Bargain Day," "Botch-A-Me," "Count Your Blessings (Instead Of Sheep)," "From This Moment On," "Hey There," "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," "Mambo Italiano," "Sisters," and more.

The developmental New York City performances of A Dash of Rosemary! ran March 5-16, 2003.

For more information, visit Red Hope Productions at www.redhopeproductions.

Jill Roberts, Gregg Kapp, Nicole Fenstad in <i>A Dash of Rosemary!</i>
Jill Roberts, Gregg Kapp, Nicole Fenstad in A Dash of Rosemary! (Photo by Amy Miller)