Drury Lane in full bloom
Cabaret celebration of Clooney dazzles

By Howard Reich

Tribune critic

May 21, 2008

With the performers in fine voice and the repertoire top-notch, it was a very good night for cabaret in Chicago.

Not that there was any reason to expect less. After Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place presented live music again in February—after a 24-year hiatus—Chicago cabaret-goers had reason to be optimistic. The quality of the performances and the enthusiasm of the crowd on that historic night suggested the best was yet to come.

On Monday evening, a sold-out house heard the follow-up to that auspicious new beginning. Notwithstanding some technical glitches—was anyone in control of the evening's errant microphones?—the revue offered accomplished singing on a surefire theme: the life and times of Rosemary Clooney.

Granted, the title of the show, "Everything's Coming Up Rosie," sounded far too sunny for its subject matter. Anyone with a passing familiarity with Clooney's tempestuous life knows about her dark years of addiction and sorrow.

Yet the first and final acts of Clooney's biography were indeed triumphant. The youthful artist who became a star singing tripe such as "Come On-A My House" eventually refashioned herself as a knowing interpreter of worthier songs. To its credit, "Everything's Coming Up Rosie" addressed the full sweep of Clooney's career, from the insipid pop hits to the autumnal masterworks.

Though the cast included several fine singers—all members of Chicago Cabaret Professionals, a non-profit advocacy group—one stood out. Even if she hadn't been evoking the style and era of Clooney, Heather Moran would have deserved the ovations she received for the bloom of her tone and the nuance of her interpretations.

Certainly Moran's ultra-slow and wistful account of "Hey There" pointed poetically to the older-wiser chapters of Clooney's career. Yet on a dime she turned around and romped through "Botch-A-Me" and "Mambo Italiano," lavishing plenty of spirit on the tunes and giving them more credibility than they rightly deserved.

But the night wasn't Moran's alone. Paul Marinaro, a most promising singer, made a heartbreaker of "Tenderly" and brought ultra-cool elegance to "Old Devil Moon."

Nan Mason, a saloon-song veteran if ever there was one, predictably put plenty of guts into everything she sang—but she ought not rewrite Johnny Mercer's lyrics to "Come Rain or Come Shine." They need no improvement.

The "Musical Mondays" series continues June 16; $25; 312-642-2000.

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