10/10/2006

Another Winter In A Summer Town

I really shouldn’t presume to tell Broadway veterans how to mount a show but I’m not going to let that stop me.

Can you honestly tell me that a musical called Grey Gardens doesn’t have at least a few problems when it takes an Act and a half to get to a song called Entering Grey Gardens?


When I first heard that the 1975 documentary about a mother and daughter in decline was to be made into a musical, I was intrigued and a little fearful. Thankfully, Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson put my fears to rest by bringing the raw pain, frailty, humour and resolve that these larger than life characters demanded.

Paired with a few awkward bits of staging and a secondary cast that was pedigreed but unremarkable, a certain number of unnecessary songs threatened to send the whole production into disrepair. On more than one occasion, a truly powerful and poignant moment ended up feeling diluted by a song that seemed to just be taking up space rather than being essential.

Try and remember -- when you’re folding an entire audience into smallish theatre seats for more than 2 ½ hours, the way to keep things moving is to find great ways to get your point across, not to just write another song. I spied Joel Grey in the audience and for one night only, I envied him his little legs.


The heartbroken but still poised and pretty Edie of Act 1 in no way resembled the Edie who emerged in Act 2 which didn't matter until after the fact when you had time to think about it. Several years had passed during intermission and when we rejoined the madness in progress, she was possessed of an entirely different speech pattern and her eccentricities were in full control, a stunning transformation on Christine Ebersole's part. As soon as she stepped on stage, it was impossible to take your eyes off of her. It was a perfect performance and she inhabited the songs like they were a part of her soul. As Big Edie, Mary Louise Wilson was no less astonishing as she got you to laugh, cringe, and question without seeming false for a moment. Together, they took the show well past its flaws with their remarkable achievements.

Get ready for awards night ladies!



My overall rating? Seven raccoons in the attic.

19 comments:

Old Lady said...

Aren't those theatre seats the crampiest things you ever sat in?

Beth said...

"I spied Joel Grey in the audience and for one night only, I envied him his little legs." Best sentence I've read all week. Sounds like you should have spent the weekend with Mama Gin.

Tumuli said...

I'd always wanted to see the documentary. Had no idea a play had been developed.

Coincidentally, a film is also in the works -- with Drew Barrymore as 'Little' Edith Bouvier Beale and Jessica Lange as the older version.

Coaster Punchman said...

Very funny, Beth.

Dale, did the show feature a cat peeing in the corner of the bedroom?

Dale said...

Those seats are a bit much for the long legged set Old Lady and although I didn't know the ample bottomed people near me, they sat with me just the same.

I might have been better off with MG Beth! I've had such trouble with my little review that I've edited it a dozen times. And here I am calling the show flawed. Glad I made you laugh! And he's tinier than I imagined.

Yes I had read that Tumuli. You should really see the documentary for a glimpse at the madness.

jin said...

I hope you weren't wearing your wet cords.

Chancelucky said...

Dale,
haven't seen the documentary and probably won't get to see the show, but really well done review.

lulu said...

I love that movie. A Musical and a movie too? Cool!

Dale said...

There were projections of cats but no onstage peeing CP. I peed but only into the absorbent seat cushion.

You should have seen what she was wearing Jin, the photo with the post ain't nothin'.

Thanks CL, I'm having trouble remembering that English is indeed my first language today so I appreciate the kind words.

It's a crazy film isn't it Lulu? The musical's worth it for all my grousing.

X. Dell said...

Seven out of how many raccoons?

chelene said...

Excellent review, Dale. If I wasn't planning on spending the rest of my life on the phone trying to get $20 opera tickets for this season I would absolutely go see this play! :)

justacoolcat said...

Nice review. I saw a special on PBS about the making of this play etc. I'm glad I wasn't the only one unimpressed by the music.

Dale said...

It's hard to keep track X. Dell, they come and go the little bandits. I'd say 7 out of 10 coons. If it was just act 2, I'd say probably 9/10.

That sounds like a great deal to me Chelene. I want some. Are they City Opera? or the Met? or what? Some super de duper deal at any rate.

Thanks CCat. Some of the songs were quite excellent and wonderfully performed but as I said some were just unnecessary and might have better served as dialogue. I'm all for a play with music as opposed to having to convert every breath into a song.

chelene said...

It's the Met, Dale. In order to get the young'uns to become life-long fans of opera (and then die and leave their vast fortunes to Lincoln Center), they've decided to offer $20 weekday tickets. The only catch is that you have to call two hours before showtime on the day of the show! Bastards.

Dale said...

That's a catch but one that I'm sure you can make a few times. It's a great scam. Wish I was there to join in the fun.

Saviour Onassis said...

Once again, I can live vicariously through you.

Thanks, Dale. I've got a raccoon problem myself lately.... Maybe I should write a musical?

Dale said...

Please do Saviour and let me be in it. I can't sing but I can set traps!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Grand review, Dale! I had no idea this was a musical. How very odd. Although no odder than musicals about Jerry Springer, I suppose.

Dale said...

It's quite something Barbara. The performances outshine some of the material but it's still worthwhile. Thanks for the nice words.