Writer-director Douglas Kampsen told Playbill On-Line 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 her music and her 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.
Kampsen conceived A Dash of Rosemary! as a three-actor 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.
"Our goal is not to imitate her," Kampsen said. "It's impossible and it doesn't seem right."
In the New York developmental run of A Dash of Rosemary!, in March, Jill Roberts plays Woman 1 and Nicole Fenstad is Woman 2. The actor has not been cast. Kampsen co-wrote the show with Kathy Weese, who choreographs. "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 director and arranger is 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. His hope is that he will get the blessing of the Clooney family for the tribute.
Kampsen sees the project as an Off-Broadway or cabaret show, and 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. My Way, a revue of songs Frank Sinatra made famous, has been a regional hit.
Kampsen and Weese are performers who have worked largely in regional theatre.
The showcase staging will feature piano and drums, but five pieces are expected to an expansion of the show.
New York City performances of A Dash of Rosemary! are at the Pantheon Theatre. Tickets are $15. For information, call (212) 496-3074.
For more information, visit Red Hope Productions at www.redhopeproductions.