Call me Merman by Rosemary Ashe
Rosemary Ashe and Nathan Martin
Curve 29/11/15 and touring
“alone with a piano, Rosemary Ashe fills the Curve’s Studio.”
A while back Ms Rosemary Ashe was cast in her dream role, Momma Rose in Gypsy. Unfortunately the revival floundered in the planning stage but Ms Ashe was so enamoured with the lyrics that she decided to put together a one woman show featuring the songs. As she researched the background to the story she was surprised to discover that the life of the definitive Momma Rose, Ethel Merman, would make a great vehicle upon which to hang some songs from Gypsy and a selection of the huge number of Ms Merman’s back catalogue. Thus was born Call me Merman.
On a simple plain set Rosemary and her accompanist, Nathan, try to get in as many of the Broadway diva’s vast repertoire as possible. This, of course, would entail a show lasting several hours so some numbers are barely more than a line or two while others are almost the complete song.
There were lots of surprising selections. Most of us only know the few routines we have seen in Ethel’s film performances but the majority of her work was on the stage and, this side of the Atlantic, we were not fortunate enough to see much of that.
While I am no stranger to the aural delights of a belted out Merman standard I was delighted to discover she was also the mistress of a tender love song.
Merman was incredibly lucky to have some of the greatest composers of the day create songs for her
From the moment the lights went down and Ms Ashe strode onstage the audience was enraptured as we were led through the life of one of Broadway’s most enduring stars. Not only were we treated to a battery of musical numbers but these were interspersed with anecdotes and details of her chaotic private life.
All this is done with just an upright piano and a strident voice, no amplification. Ethel would have approved!
Full details of the tour at www.rosemaryashe.com
First published on Western Gazette