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August 28, 2012 > Douglas Morrison Theatre presents "Grey Gardens"

Douglas Morrison Theatre presents "Grey Gardens"

Submitted By Susan E. Evans, Photo by Terry Sullivan

The Douglas Morrisson Theatre continues its 2012 "Family Portraits" season with "Grey Gardens," the humorous and heartbreaking Broadway hit musical about Big Edie and Little Edie Bouvier Beale, the eccentric aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Nominated for 10 Tony Awards and winner of three, "Grey Gardens" features book by Doug Wright ("Quills," "I am My Own Wife"), music by Scott Frankel, and lyrics by Michael Korie.

"Grey Gardens" is based on the 1975 film "Grey Gardens" by David Maysles, Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Mayer, and Susan Froemke, and it is the first Broadway musical ever to be based on a documentary. The Maysles film tells the story of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale ("Edith" or "Big Edie"), aunt to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, and her daughter ("Edie" or "Little Edie"), who lived in their decaying, flea- and vermin-infested East Hamptons mansion, Grey Gardens, with dozens of cats, raccoons, and mountains of garbage. Thirty years before, Little Edie had been a debutante, a model, and a self-described singer. In their film, the Maysles brothers are careful to treat Big Edie and Little Edie with respect, revealing their eccentricities but avoiding mockery and caricature.

"I was fascinated by the movie," says playwright Doug Wright. "I was haunted by it, I was repelled by it, I was touched by it - I found it hysterically funny at times." But Wright was wary of turning "Grey Gardens" into a musical, even though music was a fundamental part of the women's lives. He didn't want to "domesticate" the story or dilute its subversive edge. Composer Scott Frankel was similarly drawn to the challenge: "I was attracted to this project because of the [documentary's] unique blend of humor, heartache and humanity. It has always resonated strongly with me. And the prospect of the first live raccoon on a legit stage is irresistible ..." The musical which emerged from the creative team of Wright and Frankel, along with lyricist Michael Korie, follows the descent of the two Edies from their glory days at the top of high society, wealthy and sophisticated, to a penniless existence at the dilapidated Grey Gardens.

Directed by Michael Ryken, the play features an ensemble of Bay Area performers including Jenifer Tice as Edith Bouvier Beale ("Little Edie"), Chris Macomber as Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale ("Big Edie"), Melissa Heinrich as Young "Little Edie" Beale, Alexander Murphy as Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr., J. Scott Stewart as George Gould Strong, Tom Reilly as J.V. "Major" Bouvier (and as Norman Vincent Peale), Reg Clay as Brooks Sr. and Jr., Julia Franks as Jacqueline "Jackie" Bouvier and Jax Franks as Lee Bouvier. Vocal direction is by Pamela Hicks and musical direction by Marianna Wolff.

At its core, "Grey Gardens" tells the story of a mother and daughter's co-dependence and struggles - a wonderfully weird and poignant family portrait.

"Grey Gardens" previews on September 6, opens September 7, and runs through September 30 at the Douglas Morrisson Theatre in Hayward. A post-play discussion will be held after the Saturday matinee on September 22. The preview show is $10, $20 for the 2 p.m. Saturday matinee, and $28 for Thursday through Sunday performances. The Box Office is open Tuesday through Friday, 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and can be reached at (510) 881-6777. Information is also available at

Grey Gardens
September 6 - 30
8 p.m., 2 p.m. matinees
Douglas Morrisson Theatre
22311 N. Third St., Hayward
(510) 881-6777
Tickets: $10 - $28

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