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South Coast theater company welcomes back audiences with Rosemary Clooney musical after 18+ month pandemic shutdown

Brian Kuhlmann
Enseble Theater Company
David Engel and Linda Purl star in the Ensemble Theatre Company production of “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical"

"Tenderly" kicks off five-show season for Santa Barbara's Ensemble Theater Company.

Live audiences are returning to Santa Barbara’s New Vic Theater for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The Ensemble Theater Company is kicking off its season with Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical.

Jonathan Fox is the Ensemble Theater Company’s Artistic Director.

"This is just an incredible moment," said Fox. "Live theater is just irreplaceable."

He says they are excited to welcome audiences back with this story based on the legendary singer’s life, which included great success, but then depression and drug addiction before her career underwent a rebirth.

Tenderly features Linda Purl as Rosemary Clooney, and David Engel who plays a number of characters in Clooney’s life.

It’s a challenging role for Purl. She’s appeared in a number of TV series like The Office and Homeland. She’s also an acclaimed cabaret singer, which is important, because she has to act and sing in Tenderly.

"She wrote the book about it, so these are not tales out of school," said Purl. "Clearly, she thought the message was important."

David Engel co-stars. The actor and singer was part of the original New York production of Forever Plaid. In Tenderly, he plays a number of people who were in Clooney’s life. The 14 characters range from Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra to lesser know characters like Clooney’s therapist.

"I play Bing, Frank," said Engel. "I play her mother, her sister, her priest, TV announcers, everything."

Longtime Ensemble Theater Company Director Jenny Sullivan said it’s great to be back with a new show. "I tell you, I almost burst into tears the first time I walked into the theater," said Sullivan. "I didn't know how much I missed it."

Tenderly has Thursday and Friday night previews, with opening night Saturday night. It runs through October 24th.

It kicks off an ambitious five show season at the New Vic theater. Audience members are required to provide proof of full vaccination, and masks are required.

Information on “Tenderly,” and the Ensemble Theater Company season

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.