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Your reviewer is old enough to remember when Rosemary Clooney had songs in the ‘Hit Parade’, as we used to call it, songs which were frequently heard on the wireless (the BBC Light Programme, before its replacement by Radio 1 and 2). But this show is not just for nostalgia buffs like me. The songs are darned good, some of them real classics from the Great American Songbook. And they are well sung too.
The show is staged in the intimate Studio at the back of the grand (and now quite old) New Wimbledon Theatre, and features excellent performances from Katie Ray as the singer and Fed Zanni as her psychiatrist (and all the other characters). The story begins with Rosie’s first session with her ‘shrink’ at the mental hospital where she has checked in after a nervous breakdown, accelerated by drink and drugs. It then pans out to follow Rosie’s life story episodically from schoolgirl in Kentucky to international star and Hollywood actress. After each episode we return to the consultation room at the mental hospital, where Rosie is far from being an ideal patient.
Along with great talent as an actress Miss Ray is an excellent singer, and the many songs are accompanied by a vibrant piano trio, with Mr Zanni joining in for duet and dance numbers. The frequent and clever scene changes also require him to switch into a succession of different roles – Rosie’s sister, her mother, her husband, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and many others. This he carries off with remarkable aplomb.
Altogether a great accomplishment by all concerned. The confines of the small Studio space do not cramp the style of this fast-paced and nimbly-choreographed show, which is well worth a trip to the southern end of the District Line!