Teresa on Clooney

Spotlight On Productions presents cabaret singer, Teresa Fischer, in a tribute to the “Girl Singer.” The show explores themes of love, loss, joy, and second chances and centers on Rosemary Clooney’s return to the stage as a recording and concert artist in the 1970’s.
Directed by Kent Cozad, with musical director, Paul Chamlin, at the piano, Jon Roche on bass, Hiroyuki Matsuura on percussion.

TERESA FISCHER: MORE THAN YOU KNOW:
a Tribute to the ultimate Girl Singer ROSEMARY CLOONEY

November 10 and 28 @ 53 Above
Two Nights Only –– Saturday, November 10 at 2pm
Wednesday, November 28 at 7pm

 

Where:  53 Above
318 W. 53rd Street (between 8th & 9th Avenues)
New York City

Tickets: $15 in Advance via PurplePass or $20 cash at door [2 drink minimum] www.purplepass.com/morethanyouknow

Teresa sings Clooney but chats with us first!

Why Rosemary Clooney?

She was at the top of her profession and lost it all and then came back. She went from being this huge star in her first career to just being a singer – an amazing singer – because she knew that was what she was at heart. And it didn’t happen overnight – she really had to put herself back together and then reinvent who she was. She’d put on weight and everyone knew about the breakdown. Rock & Roll replaced big bands. So much to navigate – and she did it. That is inspiring. As a kid in the midwest, I would see her on TV and she had a directness and an honesty when she sang. There were no tricks or vocal affectations – just this clarity of tone and exquisite phrasing. I was thrilled when she would be on Merv Griffin or Mike Douglas or Dinah Shore or Johnny Carson. Her singing was great and she was such a real person – kind of everyone’s mom or grandmother who could make you laugh or cry depending upon the song. As she got older and lost some of her range, her phrasing never faltered and her storytelling skills became more compelling. Gives a middle-aged broad hope for the future.

Did you learn anything new while researching?

So much! The poverty that she came from was so sad but she had a can-do spirit even as a child. She and her sister Betty collected soda bottles to cash in and buy lunch. I collected soda bottles because I wanted to buy candy. They started singing to win contest money. Bob Merrill wrote Mambo Italiano for Rosemary. Imagine having a great composer write a song for you!

The details of her mental illness and her breakdown – her books are so open and honest. Her breakdown was a perfect storm of underlying bi-polar issues, drug issues, romantic entanglements, family and show business stresses. She really hit bottom personally, professionally and mentally. The fact that she and two of her children were there when Presidential Candidate Bobby Kennedy was shot on June 5, 1968 stays with me. She was friendly with the Kennedy’s- she’d campaigned for the John and Bobby Kennedy – it was a personal loss for her as well as the loss for our country. With the craziness of our politics today – that resonates with me.

She had a deep and abiding love for her family and was a mother figure to many friends – especially Michael Feinstein. They bonded while he was next door archiving the Gershwin music. Michael was deeply saddened by Ira Gershwin’s death and Rosemary held him close during that time – she told him he was her sixth child.

I don’t talk about it in the show but the stories from 4 Girls 4 are hilarious and bawdy. Her nephew, George Clooney, drove them around in a beat up old Monte Carlo.  Hijinx ensued!

Did you find it easier or harder to sing her material?

It is intimidating. Her technique is “simple” and simple is the most difficult thing to do because it is so vulnerable – so naked. Her choice of material is wonderful but some things don’t work without a full band. Someday, I’d love to add a couple of horns or a saxophone to some of the songs. Because I know her story, I can hear her story in her recordings – her vulnerability and honesty is visceral. I had to find and tell my story in the songs. You can’t imitate her. A lot of the songs seem easy because the melodies are so lush, but that can be a trap. I want to tell the story of second chances and sing the songs well and I can’t fall back on being funny. I’ve learned a great deal from my musical director, Paul Chamlin. This is his area of musical expertise and I have learned so much just by listening to him improvise and follow along. I’m not a great sight-reader – neither was Rosemary – she learned from recordings – and the hardest part for me is to just trust the music. Just let the feel of the song lead you. Listen and tell the story. 

What is your favorite of her songs to sing?

Her swing version of Hey There is pure joy! (Our) Love Is Here To Stay – just touches my heart knowing it was written by the Gershwins in what was later Rosemary‘s living room.

Did you leave anything out that you would like to sing later?

So many – When October Goes, I’ve Got A Crush On You, Fools Rush In, One For My Baby and One More For The Road, and Old Devil Moon.  I’ve never sung so many love songs in a show and it was a challenge to find songs that weren’t just love songs so that the show had more ideas and more variety of stories. It would be fun to do a few of her duets – Ya Got Class or On A Slow Boat To China – the radio recordings of her and Bing are amazing – but I focused on her later career.  

What is each of your band’s favorite songs to play?

Matsu had lots of fun with Mambo Italiano and If Swing Goes, I Go, Too. On the ballad side, Jon loved Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me. Paul’s favorite song is More Than You Know. In fact, when I brought in my first stack of Rosemary music, he said he wouldn’t do the show if we didn’t include that song.

Are their any modern singers that you think Rosy would like?

Norah Jones, KD Lang and Diana Krall (I know she and Diana knew each other – but I think she’d love what Diana does today – she really is a jazz performer who loves lyrics.) All three have an honesty and openness when they sing and they tell stories in their songs.

Is there a song that you Wished she had sung?

Losing My Mind by Stephen Sondheim. She had her heart broken several times.  

What is the one thing about Rosemary that you would like the audience to take away with them?

Love, wisdom and gratitude. I hope I capture that.

What is the one thing about Teresa Fischer that would like the audience to take away with them?

Enjoyment of life wherever you happen to be – young or old. For people who remember Rosemary, I hope I bring back some memories and maybe they learn something inspiring about her life they didn’t know before. For those who don’t know her music, I hope they love the music and hear the “we make our second chances” message.

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