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Theatre Review: "Tenderly" at The Carnegie

Kim Schroeder Long’s performance in the title role of Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical will probably be enough to keep most audience members happy despite a flawed production at The Carnegie, continuing through Nov. 19.

Tenderly offers high points – and low points – of Clooney’s professional and private life performed as a two-hander. Long plays Clooney, getting in the swing with 20 musical interludes mostly from the two decades from, from getting discovered on WLW in the late ‘40s to a nervous breakdown in the late ‘60s.

The plot follows Clooney during several sessions with her psychiatrist, giving her a good reason to talk about her life: teen days in a sister act, WLW, on the road with the band, on to Hollywood, her unhappy marriage to actor-director and philandering Jose Ferrer – and the insecurities that drove her to an addiction to painkillers.

Long is partnered with Allen Middleton, who plays everybody else – her psychiatrist, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, her mother, her longtime love Dante DiPaolo and more. It’s a honey of a role, but Middleton isn’t up to it.

He’s physically wrong for the role, but he could have overcome that with a skilled performance.

Instead, several of his characters would be indistinguishable except for props as identifiers; he needs to inhabit every character to give Long something to act against, but at the performance I saw, he was merely adequate. I especially missed feeling the attraction between Clooney and her two loves.

Music director Steve Goers, who also leads the trio backing Long, does his usual first-rate work, and with Long makes the numbers everything they need to be. The script, by area writers Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman needs more lift – and oomph – especially in the draggy second act.

Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical, through Nov.19. The Carnegie, 1028 Scott Blvd., Covington. 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $30, students $23. 859-957-1940, www.thecarnegie.com and at the box office.