Grey Gardens

Off-Broadway Production
Playwrights Horizons, 2006
Broadway Production
Walter Kerr Theater, 2006

Book by Doug Wright
Music by Scott Frankel
Lyrics by Michael Korie

Directed by Michael Greif
Choreographed by Jeff Calhoun
Music Direction by Lawrence Yurman
Scenic Design by Allen Moyer
Costume Design by William Ivey Long
Lighting Design by Peter Kaczorowski
Sound Design by Brian Ronan
Orchestrations by Bruce Coughlin

With Christine Ebersole,
Mary Louise Wilson, Erin Davie,
John McMartin, Sarah Hyland,
Matt Cavenaugh, Bob Stillman,
Michael Potts, Kelsey Fowler

National Productions
Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles, 2016
Ahmanson Theatre
With Betty Buckley and Rachel York
Directed by Michael Wilson

International Productions
Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, Japan, 2009
Toho Productions
Directed by Amon Miyamoto
With Shinobu Otake and Mitsuko Kusabue

Melbourne, Australia, 2012
Arts Centre Playhouse
Directed by Roger Hodgman
With Pamela Rabe and Nancy Hayes

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2013
Powell Hall
Directed by Wolf Maya
With Suely Franco and Soraya Ravenle

London, Great Britain, 2016
Southwark Playhouse
Directed by Thom Southerland
With Sheila Hancock and Jenna Russell
Produced by Danielle Tarento 

 

PRESS

“Wright and his collaborators, Scott Frankel and Michael Korie, have taken their cue from the Maysles brothers in portraying their multifaceted subjects with depth and dignity. Their show is a haunting account of lives derailed, a textured depiction of the warring, often simultaneous desires to wound and heal that characterize mother-daughter relationships, and a witty celebration of two defiantly maverick personalities… The high points remain unchallenged: Christine Ebersole’s ‘Revolutionary Costume’ and brilliant Act One closer ‘Will You?’; Mary Louise Wilson’s ‘Jerry Likes My Corn,’ a seemingly whimsical song that spins the most unlikely snatch of dialogue into a complex piece of character-and-conflict-building; Ebersole’s schizoid ‘Around the World,’ which lurches grippingly between bitter accusation and the sad imprisonment of memory; and her heartbreaking closing number, ‘Another Winter in a Summer Town.’ Performed on the first press night by Ebersole with tears streaming down her face, that song now segues into a superbly reworked final scene of piercing melancholy. In a Broadway arena that can be unaccommodating for ‘serious’ musicals, Grey Gardens is as boldly odd, original and beguiling as its subjects.”

— David Rooney, Variety, November 2, 2006

“Home, in the modern theater, is where everything hellish happens. Grey Gardens by this light must be the definitive modernist musical, the only one I can think of in which the house is the title character. The Beale women and their crumbling, cat-infested house are part of history. Grey Gardens fascinates, because like many modernist works, it upholds a tradition while simultaneously trashing it to hell and back, the tradition in this case being that of the old-style Broadway musical… Scott Frankel’s pastiche score, set to cunningly wry lyrics by Michael Korie, both invents and mercilessly parodies a world of ancient Tin Pan Alley tunes. Grey Gardens feels like a Broadway musical, a modernist musical that belongs on the street where modern playwrights built all those unhappy houses which inextricably open fourth walls.”

— Michael Feingold, The Village Voice, November 6, 2006

“The songs from Grey Gardens, with music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie, sustain a level of refined language and psychological detail as elevated as Stephen Sondheim’s. Grey Gardens is an artfully skewed variation on a traditional musical that belongs to the line that connects Mr. Sondheim with Kurt Weill…The score is a meticulously fashioned piece of musical theater that gains in depth the more you listen to it. The songs expertly integrate recitative and speech into a seamless narrative flow that never loses its verbal acuity. Mr. Korie’s rhymes are all the more impressive for being at once original and unforced. At the same time, they are packed with specific historical references… ‘Hominy Grits,’ a minstrel show number sung in vintage black dialect, wants to make you squirm even as you admire its gemlike craft. In the second act the music for Grey Gardens curdles into a kind of off-kilter American Gothic style, as the walls close in around the characters and their cats, and their minds wander. Their self-delusion and competitive symbiosis are rendered with clinical insight in the creepy ‘Jerry Likes My Corn.’ ‘Around the World,’ a ditty sung by Little Edie while ruminating in an attic filled with mementos, sticks to your mind like flypaper… As Little Edie looks back on her youth, when she was romanced (and then dropped) by the young Joseph Kennedy Jr., her imagination still lingers in the debutante dream world of her past:
          The pink paper lanterns
          Still twinkle in place.
          My young Navy hero,
          His tender embrace.
          That sapphire blue ocean…
          Oh, how can I face
          Another Winter in a Summer Town?
This beautiful song is quietly terrifying. Grey Gardens is a portrait of decay whose songs artfully mimic that process until you are left aghast at the waste and sadness of it all; it leaves you no exit.

–Stephen Holden, The New York Times, February 9, 2007

“Can a musical be hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time? Grey Gardens can. Here’s that shot in the arm for theater lovers who’ve been longing for something bold, haunting, and hypnotic to get lost in… The nuanced, compassionate book by Doug Wright never stoops to condescension of Baby Jane histrionics… And save a rousing cheer for the music of Scott Frankel and the lyrics of Michael Korie. In an era of jukebox musicals, here is an original score with the power to live in your head long after you leave the theater. Get the cast album, pronto. Wilson turns ‘Jerry Likes My Corn,’ a seeming throwaway about the simple joys an old woman takes in making corn for a handyman (the excellent Matt Cavenaugh), into a portrait in miniature of an entire life. And Ebersole is the best friend a song ever had, whether she’s caressing a ballad (‘Will You?’; ‘Around the World’), bringing down the house with laughter (‘Revolutionary Costume for Today’) or leaving you emotionally shattered with a final number, ‘Another Winter in a Summer Town,’ that sounds like a classic song in the making. Bob Stillman deserves a special shout-out as George Gould Strong, Big Edie’s gay accompanist, whose song ‘Drift Away’ brings depth to what could have been a stock character. Grey Gardens is more than a unique and unmissable musical: it’s a gift.”

–Peter Travers, Rolling Stone, November 6, 2006

“The quality and emotional oomph of this musical flows from a rare ability to move and provoke an audience on matters personal and existential. The show ponders the hell that unyielding parents can bring down on their dependent children and grandchildren, regardless of the resources at their disposal. It notes that happiness–in love, in life–may be a one-shot deal that vanishes forever. It reminds the rich and powerful that they might end their lives in depressing circumstances. And most important of all, it shrewdly and evenhandedly explores the way mother and daughter are locked for life, even if it’s to their detriment. In Grey Gardens, the deeply moving and exquisitely performed new Broadway show, their fall mirrors our deepest insecurities.”

–Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune, November 3, 2006

“The tunes in Act One, by composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie, are light, elegant, witty in the Cole Porter and George Gershwin mode. Things shift for Act Two, with a score that is atonal, bitter, and distinctly sardonic. Frankel and Korie’s songs are gorgeous, with sharp, vivid lyrics… a literate, emotionally rich score.”

–David Cote, NY1, November 3, 2006

“An experience no passionate theatergoer should miss.”

— Ben Brantley, The New York Times, November 3, 2006

MEDIA

 

FURTHER READING

New York Times Interview with Christine Ebersole

New York Times Audio Interview

Charles McGrath/NY Times: “The Cat Ladies Sing”