The cult-fave documentary film, "Grey Gardens," about the real-life relations of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy who lived in squalor on Long Island, is being transformed into a new musical by composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie.
Discussions are underway with playwright Doug Wright to adapt the film into a libretto, the authors announced Oct. 18.
The 1976 film by David and Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer and Susan Froemke, looked at "the unbelievable but true lives of a mother and daughter, Edith and Edie Bouvier Beale, aunt and first cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis," according to the announcement. A favorite art-house picture, the movie was recently released on DVD.
"Grey Gardens is a 28-room mansion in East Hampton, NY," according to the announcement. "In 1975, hidden behind towering, overgrown privets, it was the home of 'Big Edie' and 'Little Edie' when the legendary documentary filmmakers David and Albert Maysles were given unprecedented access to the house and its compelling, eccentric inhabitants. 'Big Edie' was a born aristocrat, sister of 'Black Jack' Bouvier, Jackie O's father. 'Little Edie' was an aspiring actress who had left New York City to care for her elderly mother.
"Prior to the arrival of the Maysles, the two were on the verge of being evicted from Grey Gardens by the Village of East Hampton and the Suffolk County Board of Health due to the squalid conditions they were living under that included no running water, piles of garbage, eight cats, fleas, cobwebs and a raccoon. The incident made national headlines." Over 50 hours of film was shot, "and the result became a compelling and unforgettable portrait of love, need and dysfunction between a mother and daughter."
Now, apparently, they will sing. Composer Scott Frankel said in a statement, "I was attracted to this project because of the film'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..."
In a letter "Little Edie" wrote to Albert Maysles prior to her death in January, 2002, she expressed her excitement about the idea of Grey Gardens being turned into a stage musical: “I am thrilled by what you wrote about the musical 'g.g!' My whole life was music and song! It made up for everything! Thrilled – thrilled – thrilled! I have all of Mother’s sheet music and her songs she sang. With all I didn't have, my life was joyous!"
Scott Frankel and Michael Korie are the creators of two original musicals: Doll, a musical drama, received a reading at Lincoln Center earlier this year with Patti LuPone playing the role of Alma Mahler, and Meet Mister Future, about the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Christopher Ashley directed a recent workshop at the Manhattan Theater Club, with Faith Prince in the lead role. Doll was honored with The Kleban Foundation Award, the 2002 Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award and The Richard Rodgers Development Award.
Korie is also the librettist of the opera, Harvey Milk, produced at the San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera and New York City Opera.
No casting, creative team or timetable for production were mentioned.
— By Kenneth Jones