Grey Gardens Flourishes; Off-Bway Run Is Sold Out and Extended

News   Grey Gardens Flourishes; Off-Bway Run Is Sold Out and Extended
 
Audiences are advancing at the gates of Grey Gardens like rebels stormed the barricades in Les Miz.

Christine Ebersole in Grey Gardens.
Christine Ebersole in Grey Gardens. Photo by Joan Marcus

The Playwrights Horizons world premiere new musical about decaying socialites who live in the ruins of a Long Island mansion is sold out through March 26, and has been extended to April 9, a spokesman confirmed.

Tweaks and refinements to the production are ongoing on the Mainstage Theater at PH on West 42nd Street. The creepy subject matter and the New York ties to the real-life story that inspired the show have boosted the box office.

Previews began Feb. 10. Opening is March 7.

The gates of Gardens seemed golden before the first preview dawned: Not only does the cult-hit documentary film on which this world premiere musical is based have a wide fan base (and a creepy-fascinating subject), but the man writing the libretto, Doug Wright, won the Pulitzer Prize for I Am My Own Wife — the solo play which premiered at Playwrights before moving to Broadway glory.

Wright's collaborators here are composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie. Matt Cavenaugh, Sara Gettelfinger, Sarah Hyland, John McMartin, Michael Potts, Bob Stillman and Audrey Twitchell join previously announced Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson in the ramshackle world of Grey Gardens.

According to Playwrights Horizons, "Grey Gardens concerns the deliciously eccentric aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who were once among the brightest names in the pre-Camelot social register, and are now East Hampton's most notorious recluses, living in a dilapidated 28-room mansion. Facing an uncertain future, Edith Bouvier Beale and her adult daughter, 'Little' Edie, are forced to revisit their storied past and come to terms with it — for better, and for worse."

If critics and audiences take a shine to the show, expect it to have a commercial future.

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The new musical covers about 30 years, from a life-changing day in 1941 (when Little Edie's relationship with young Joe Kennedy fell apart, and Edith's marriage to Mr. Beale hit the rocks) to 1973 (when mother and daughter are cooking food over a hotplate at their bedside and listening to raccoons nibble at the frame of the house).

"The events of the play," reads a Playbill note for the musical, "are based on both fact and fiction."

The documentary that inspired both projects is a housebound experience set in the shambles itself. The film remains a creepy document of mental, physical and social decline.

Doug Wright borrows lines from the documentary to pepper an imagined Act One that has the whiff of Cole Porter's "High Society" to it (the score is by composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie). Their Act Two is set in the crumbling home and more closely follows the documentary (including the more memorable lines from the ladies), spiked with songs, such as Frankel and Korie's haunting "Another Winter in a Summer Town."

Christine Ebersole plays matron Edith in 1941 and her daughter, Edie, in 1973. Mary Louise Wilson is the Medusa-like visage of Edith in old age in 1973. Sarah Gettelfinger plays the vibrant daughter Edie in 1941. Sarah Hyland plays young Jackie Bouvier. John McMartin is J.V. "Major" Bouvier, Edith's father.

The cult movie, now on DVD with added special features, is a portrait of physical and mental decay that has fascinated viewers (and inspired some artists and designers) for 30 years.

Wright also penned the play Quills and the screenplay for its film version. Composer Frankel was musical director for Broadway's Falsettos and Putting It Together and lyricist Michael Korie co-wrote the opera Harvey Milk and lyrics for the Broadway-aimed Lucy Simon musical Zhivago.

Ebersole is a Tony Award winner for the revival of 42nd Street; Wilson was a Tony nominee for Cabaret and appeared in Off-Broadway's Full Gallop; Gettelfinger created the role of Jolene, the Oklahoma heiress in Broadway's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and appeared in Nine.

The production features scenic design by Allen Moyer, costume design by five-time Tony Award winner William Ivey Long, lighting design by Tony Award winner Peter Kaczorowski, sound design by Brian Ronan and projections by Wendall K. Harrington. Orchestrations are by Tony Award winner Bruce Coughlin and music director will be Lawrence Yurman.

Grey Gardens is presented by special arrangement with Nathan Riley.

Michael Greif (Rent) directs and Jeff Calhoun (Big River, Grease!) handles the musical staging of the show, based on the 1975 documentary, "Grey Gardens," by David Maysles, Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer & Susan Froemke.

For ticket information, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200, or visit www.playwrighthorizons.org.

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