As the pay-what-you-can first preview dawns, the arbor of that world would seem to be golden: 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.
Matt Cavenaugh, Sara Gettelfinger, Sarah Hyland, John McMartin, Michael Potts, Bob Stillman and Audrey Twitchell will join previously announced Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson in the ramshackle world of Grey Gardens.
Opening is March 7 at PH's West 42nd Street Off-Broadway Mainstage Theater.
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. In the motion picture, the fallen-from-high-society aunt (aging Edith) and cousin (middle-aged Little Edie) of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy live in a fetid, dilapidated Long Island mansion with countless cats. Their most frequent visitors seem to be a wayward, local young man and the documentary filmmakers. The camera captures the ladies' frustrated, rambling musings on the lost past.
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.
According to Playwright 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."
Librettist Wright is the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of I Am My Own Wife, which also won the Tony Award for Best Play. He 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.
Performances continue to March 26, but if critics and audiences take a shine to the show, expect it to have a commercial future.
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; Cavenaugh was the hunky star of Urban Cowboy on Broadway; Gettelfinger created the role of Jolene, the Oklahoma heiress in Broadway's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and appeared in Nine; young Sarah Hyland (who played the title role in Paper Mill's Annie) is making her Off-Broadway debut; six-time Tony nominee McMartin starred in the original Sweet Charity and Follies, and revivals of Show Boat and Into the Woods; Obie Award winner Potts appeared in Lennon; two-time Tony nominee Bob Stillman is a veteran of Dirty Blonde and Grand Hotel; Twitchell is making her stage debut.
Cavenaugh plays a young Joe Kennedy and young local, Jerry, who hangs out with the aging Beales (he's flabby and unsophisticated in the motion picture); Gettelfinger is Young Edie; Hyland is Young Jackie Bouvier; McMartin is Major Bouvier; Potts plays Brooks; Stillman plays Gould; Twitchell is Young Lee Bouvier.
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.
The performance schedule will be Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2:30 & 8 PM and Sundays at 2:30 & 7:30 PM. Tickets are $65.
Grey Gardens is presented by special arrangement with Nathan Riley.
For ticket information, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200, or visit www.playwrighthorizons.org.