Highly Recommended Theater: GREY GARDENS (Musical Theatre Guild at The Alex in Glendale: One Night Only, Monday February 27)

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by Tony Frankel on February 22, 2023

in Theater-Los Angeles

One Night Only: Monday, February 27 at 7:30pm

The 2006 Broadway musical version of the cult 1975 Maysles Brothers’ documentary Grey Gardens is a dream come true for its fans. And if you want to see this musical — as eccentric as its main characters — head over to the Alex Theatre Monday night, when Musical Theatre Guild presents a staged reading concert for one night only, closing out the 2022 – 2023 season closer. It’s also MTG’s final show at the Alex Theatre after 20 seasons; we’ll know about new digs soon.

Grey Gardens is all about the co-dependent mother and daughter team of Edith Bouvier Beale. (They share the same name, though the daughter goes by Little Edie.) As the aunt and cousin of Jackie Kennedy, the Beales gained tabloid notoriety in the 1970s when they were discovered to be living in filthy squalor among dozens of cats and a few rabid raccoons in their once grand mansion, Grey Gardens, in East Hampton, Long Island. It’s remarkable that playwright Doug Wright, composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie all collaborated to create such an intelligent and coherent musical from this oddball (and gay camp) source. despite its uncomfortable subject matter, it is very entertaining and informative, a creepy tale made palatable by Mr. Wright, one of the finest playwrights at work in America today.

But be forewarned: Grey Gardens might be one of the weirdest musicals you’ll ever encounter — especially if you don’t know the source material or if you lack an obsessive knowledge of the family tree of former First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Act I of the musical is pure conjecture. Set in 1941, it shows the Beales at their height as wealthy American aristocracy, through the foreshadowed cracks start to show. Little Edie is to be wed to the up-and-coming Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (John F. Kennedy’s older brother), though mother Edith imperils the engagement party with her overindulgent recital program.

Act II takes place 32 years later, and is more of a character study as we see the reclusive Beales lost in a world of memory, music and regret. Famous quotes from the film become songs, ranging from the brilliant “The Revolutionary Costume for Today” to show off Little Edie’s eccentric fashion sense and outlook on life, to the downright strange: A throwaway comment like “Jerry Likes My Corn” becomes a self-reassuring number for Edith to reflect on the people who still care for her. The character-driven and intimate songs are hardly, as they say, memorable, but I promise you’ll leave singing the cats and raccoons.

The cast includes MTG members Eileen Barnett (“Big” Edith Bouvier Beale), Trisha Rapier (Edith Bouvier Beale/”Little” Edie Beale), Zachary Ford (Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr./Jerry), Tal Fox (Young “Little” Edie Beale), Robert Yacko (J.V. “Major” Bouvier/Norman Vincent Peale), and Glenn Rosenblum (George Gould Strong). Joining them are Guest Artists Phillip Brandon (Brooks Sr./Jr.) and Sophie Petersen (Jacqueline “Jackie” Bouvier). Kirsten Chandler directs, Musical Director is Anthony Zediker.

With glorious and challenging melodies, relentlessly human characters, and a narrative that reveals a lesser-known side of one of America’s most famous families, Grey Gardens is the ideal show to utilize MTG’s array of talented performers.

And here is a video of Richard Skipper interviewing the real life Jerry Torre and Zachary Ford who will be portraying him. Jerry is featured prominently in the doc, and his character plays a major role in the musical (remember “Jerry Likes My Corn”). Jerry came to live at the dilapidated mansion and befriend the Beales – and was privy to what really went on when the cameras stopped rolling.

Musical Theatre Guild
Alex Theatre, 216 North Brand Blvd. in Glendale
Monday, February 27, 2023, at 7:30pm
for tickets ($45-$49), visit MTG

student rush and Actor’s Equity member discounts available at the box office on show day with appropriate ID

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