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BWW Interview: Linda Purl TENDERLY Channeling ROSEMARY CLOONEY

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Ensemble Theatre Company (ETC) presents the first show of its season, the Southern California premiere of TENDERLY: THE ROSEMARY CLOONEY MUSICAL opening October 7th

BWW Interview: Linda Purl TENDERLY Channeling ROSEMARY CLOONEY

Ensemble Theatre Company (ETC) presents the first show of its reopening season, the Southern California premiere of TENDERLY: THE ROSEMARY CLOONEY MUSICAL opening October 7, 2021. Jenny Sullivan directs Linda Purl as Rosemary Clooney and David Engel as various men in her life. Had the chance to poise some queries to Linda on Rosemary and being lucky and bilingual.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Linda!

Thanks for asking!

I have the pleasure of seeing Rosemary Clooney with Michael Feinstein at Segerstrom Center for the Arts years ago.

Lucky you.

Did you ever get to meet or work with her?

I did... not work together but I did get to have time with her. I had worked with Jose and Miguel so that was my downbeat with the Ferrer family in the mid 80's. In the fullness of time I met Rosie. My son and Mig's sons were childhood playmates, Gabriel was a pastor, a great pastor, at my church so we too became friends. Odd that three generations of friendships developed... and a blessing. Rosie was kind, generous and had the capacity to see into people oft time offering just the right dollop of life wisdom at just the right moment. She didn't have a false note in her being, had no airs, was tough and deeply loving all in one.

How old were you when you became aware of Rosemary Clooney's vocal stylings from your parents' phonograph records?

My folks played a broad cross section on their ever-spinning turntable. Rosie's voice was in their mix along with other greats of her era. Her attention to the lyric, to the story being told in any given song that she sung had a way of drawing the listener in... of making you want to listen and take the journey with her.

Do you have a favorite song of hers?

That's a tough question! "I Remember You," "The Wave" would be two.

Will that song be included in TENDERLY?

"I Remember You" is, and a number of her most famous tunes.

What songs of Rosemary Clooney did you include in your solo cabaret debut at Feinstein's/54 Below in 2018?

If memory serves, we sang Johnny Mercer's "I Thought About You."

How would you describe your character of Rosemary Clooney in terms of positive qualities?

In the play, as in life, she is strong, resilient, a survivor. She is utterly devoted to her children, grateful for her successes and loyal to all she loved.

BWW Interview: Linda Purl TENDERLY Channeling ROSEMARY CLOONEY You have crossed paths with your co-star David Engel back in 2005 when you both performed in the 21st S.T.A.G.E. benefit, although you didn't sing together. Have you worked together before TENDERLY?

No, but I'm so happy to finally have the chance to share the boards with him. I've long been a fan of David's who can do no wrong. I mean really... smart, talented, hardworking, swell, kind... I don't think there's anything he cannot do on stage. I adore him!!

Have you worked with your director Jenny Sullivan before?

Many times. This is our sixth time to jump into the water together. Jenny creates a beautiful working space... one in which all members of a given production feel supported. Very cool.

Born in Greenwich, Connecticut; you spent your childhood in Japan. How good would you rate your grasp of the Japanese language?

Average... conversational at this point. I had gone back for a month on tour a couple of years back and to my astonishment the language was still more or less intact. It was like reconnecting with an old and dear friend.

When you did THE KING AND I, OLIVER and THE MIRACLE WORKER in Tokyo, were the productions in Japanese or English?

THE KING AND I was in Japanese. All the others in English.

You've studied acting in Japan, Connecticut, and the UK. Any creative differences in teaching methods you noticed?

Yes... HUGE! Training in Japan was very much focused on technique, the work was very much from the outside in, dry I would say in comparison to studies in the West. UK studies were next which, fortunately for me, were a perfect bridge between studies in Tokyo and N.Y. For one thing classes were in English. Focus there was still quite technical, presentational. Training in N.Y. was mind blowing. Elocution, projection, staying open to the fourth wall and a host of other disciplines that had been drummed into me went right out the window. It was all about working from the inside out and getting yourself grounded in the emotional truths of your character. It was fascinating... far more cinematic I'd say than any of my previous studies. I'm grateful to have had an exposure to different approaches. I draw from them all in the rehearsal room.

Who first discovered that you could sing? Family member? Teacher?

Funny... there was no one moment. We sang a lot together as a family just for fun. I think experiencing that joy was key to my wanting to have music as a part of my life.

You have appeared and reappeared on several TV series as different characters (i.e., in Happy Days as Gloria, then Ashley; in The Waltons as Alicia, then Vanessa; and in Murder, She Wrote as three different women). Is it not a common practice to be cast as different characters in a series? Or were you a lucky exception to the rule?

BWW Interview: Linda Purl TENDERLY Channeling ROSEMARY CLOONEY Lucky I'd say, very lucky. With Happy Days, years after I'd played Gloria (Ritchie's girlfriend), a casting notice came out saying they were looking for a "Linda Purl type" to play Fonzie's fiancée. Actually said that in the casting notice! My agent called and asked if I could audition? I did and got the role. I think I'd still be in therapy had I not been cast in the role of a "Linda Purl type."

What's in the near future after TENDERLY for Linda Purl?

My music Director Tedd Firth and I are working on a new CD. Couple of N.Y. gigs coming up which I'm very excited about... November 7th at Birdland downstairs and New Year's Eve at the Triad. May I add here how thrilled I am to be back in the rehearsal room? Ecstatic that we can once again partake in live theatre! I don't think there's a theatre in the nation that has not made considerable sacrifices in order to stay afloat through the pandemic. Ensemble Theatre Company is one of the resilient survivors and we are so very happy to be part of their emergence.
Thank you again, Linda! I look forward to experiencing Rosemary Clooney again, through your eyes.

Thank you so much!

For tickets to the live performances of TENDERLY: THE ROSEMARY CLOONEY MUSICAL through October 24, 2021; log onto etcsb.org


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