Weston’s Vermont Premiere of “Tenderly” leaves audience speechless

WESTON, Vt. – Amazing. Breathtaking. Inspiring. Incredible. Touching.

Weston’s Rod and Gun Club theater was packed on July 14 for the 7:30 p.m. performance of “Tenderly,” starring two beloved actors, Susan Haefner and Samuel Lloyd Jr., who’ve appeared on Weston stages again and again. In the brief intermission, the audience was in awe and had few words to say. They needed the time to process the first half of an incredible performance, which was emotional, personal, realistic, and relatable. The audience found a piece of themselves in the characters who portrayed Rosemary Clooney’s life and works.

Rosemary Clooney, a beloved actress and singer that graced American stages for five decades, comes to life in this musical. Her life story, beginning with her childhood in Maysville, Kentucky, and following her all over the world, to Hollywood stardom and to a mental health clinic, where her story unravels, unveils her personality and struggles with depression and addiction.

The Doctor, a character brought to life by Samuel Lloyd Jr., reaches Clooney, played by Susan Haefner, who comes to terms with unresolved conflicts that remained suppressed all her life. He breaks through her shell and takes on various personas to accommodate Clooney’s vivid memories, taking the audience on an incredible journey.

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“Tenderly” is the story of Rosemary Clooney. Photo by Director Tim Fort

Lloyd began acting as a child, playing a role in “Annie Get Your Gun,” and has since performed on television shows and theaters everywhere, including “Scrubs” and “Desperate Housewives.”

Haefner has starred in Broadway’s “42nd Street,” “The National Tour of Billy Elliot,” and originated the role of Rosemary Clooney in the world premiere of “Tenderly” at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

The two actors were accompanied by a jazz trio led by music director and pianist Jeffrey Lodin. The production was choreographed by Felicity Stiverson and directed by Weston Founding Director Tim Fort.

This unique musical was written by composer, lyricist, and playwright Mark Friedman and writer, composer, and lyricist Janet Yates Vogt. Friedman was honored as 2005 National Music Educator of the Year, and he has co-founded Cincinnati’s Shakespeare Festival, the Peanut Butter Theatre for Children, the Artreach Touring Theatre, and the Good News Company. His songs have been released worldwide, and he’s a member of ASCAP, the Dramatist Guild, and the Paradigm Talent Agency in New York City.

Vogt is known for her musical theater works, children’s vocal music, adult choral works, and educational keyboard publications. She studied piano and music theory at Cincinnati College: Conservatory of Music, and she works as a pit orchestra member, vocal coach, vocalist, teaches at Cincinnati College, and presents at music conferences nationwide.

The play began as one-act, but after the writers’ workshop in 2014, the play grew to two full acts, and Weston’s production is the first of the play’s most recent edition. Director Tim Fort saw this play performed a couple of years back, and knew he wanted to produce his own version for audiences in Vermont, being the 13th show he’s directed at Weston in about 15 years. Fort has previously worked with Haefner and Lloyd, having directed Haefner 14 or 15 times. Fort is always amazed and impressed by her ability to bring characters to life, and immensely enjoyed the opportunity and experience of working with the two actors.

This is the Rod & Gun Club Theater’s last summer, as the new stage at Walker Farm will open September 23. A long awaited celebration awaits!

Andrea McArdle will be performing on July 24 in celebration of her 40th anniversary of creating the iconic role of Little Orphan Annie; join her on a journey from Tin Pan Alley to Broadway. Tickets are available at the box office or visit westonplayhouse.org for more information.

Tenderly runs from July 13 to Aug. 5 at the Weston Rod & Gun Club (982 Rte 100S). Showtimes are Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Call the Box Office at 802-824-5288 or visit westonplayhouse.org.

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