What's Portuguese for Staunch?: Grey Gardens Debuts in Rio de Janeiro

By Adam Hetrick
March 20, 2013

The Tony Award-nominated musical Grey Gardens, which transports audiences to the East Hampton residence of the Beale family – both in its heyday and in its decline – receives its Portuguese-language premiere in a new production opening March 21 in Rio de Janeiro.



Grey Gardens has a Tony Award-nominated score by composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie, and a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Doug Wright. Frankel and Korie are also collaborating on the new musicals Finding Neverland and Far From Heaven.

Based on the Maysles brothers 1975 cult documentary, Grey Gardens traces the lives of East Hampton socialites "Big" and "Little" Edie Beale, whose mother-daughter tug of war ultimately finds the eccentric and resilient duo residing in a dilapidated mansion overrun with cats and raccoons.

Jonas Klabin is producing the run, directed by Wolf Maya, at the Sala Baden Powell Hall, in Copacabana. It is billed as The Women of Grey Gardens - The Musical.

The production has been two years in the making, according to Klabin, who told Playbill.com that he and the team had been faced with changing their performance venue seven times, including a lock-out while their current space was shut down for renovations. Grey Gardens will reopen the Sala Baden Powell Hall. As Klabin put it, "So very Grey Gardens in style how we're re-opening the venue. It took a staunch character to keep at it."

Korie described the space, a former movie house, as appropriately run-down. In an e-mail to Playbill.com, he praised the work of the creative team, saying that they took ownership of the piece, "still set in the Hamptons and yet [it] seems to suggest a Hamptons that could exist comfortably in Brazil."

"It's a contemporary musical, adult, sophisticated. A dramatic musical dense with characters and a real story. A new trend in American musical format - and a challenge for all of us," director Maya said in a statement. Grey Gardens marks a return to the musical stage for Maya, one of the most respected theatre and television directors in the country.

The two-month run of Grey Gardens begins just as the Southern hemisphere bids farewell to summer and the citizens of Rio experience their own (if much warmer) version of "Another Winter in a Summer Town." "Brazilians are not as aware of the Beales' story and, culturally, Grey Gardens is thousands of miles away from Rio de Janeiro," Klabin said. "Except there are two details that allow crossing-over between the two: both are summer towns, and the mother-daughter love-hate relationship is universal."

Both Frankel and Korie are currently in Rio as the cast puts the final touches on the production. Korie added, "It is an exceptional production featuring great singing actors known here from Brazilian TV, wonderful set and thrilling projections, the full Broadway orchestration and a lovely translation. The score sounds gorgeous in Portuguese..." Klabin and Tatiana Aragão authored the translation of the text.

Suely Franco and Soraya Ravenle

Brazilian musical star Soraya Ravenle portrays Big Edith Beale in the first act and takes on the role of the adult Little Edie in the second act. Suely Franco, a celebrated actress of Brazilian stage and theatre, portrays Big Edie in the second act. It marks a return to the musical stage for the veteran actress. Young actress Carol Puntel is cast as a hopeful Little Edie in the musical's first act.

The cast also features Guilherme Terra as Gould, Sandro Christopher as Major Bouvier, Pierre Baitelli as Joseph Patrick Kennedy Jr., Jorge Maya as Brooks and Norman Vincent Peale, Danilo Timm as Jerry, Raquel Bonfante as Jaqueline Kennedy and Sofia Viamonte Lee Bouvier. Understudies are Mirna Rubi and Thuany Parente.

Klabin describes the physical production as a "jawdropping combination between set design and video-mapping that allows Grey Gardens itself to come to life."

The production has scenic design by Bia Junqueira, costume design by Marta Reis, lighting by Luiz Paulo Nenen, choreography by Marcia Rubin, sound design by Gabriel D'Angelo and multimedia by Debora Bensusan e Tânia Grillo.

Grey Gardens continues to be a popular U.S. title for regional theatres. It has also played Berlin, Japan and Australia. Grey Gardens premiered Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 2006 and subsequently transferred to Broadway, where it ran for 307 performances at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Grey Gardens earned a Tony nomination for Best Musical and garnered Tony Awards for leads Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson, as well as for costume designer William Ivey Long.

Visit greygardens.art.br.

Here's a look at Grey Gardens in rehearsal:

Grey Gardens - Making Of from Andarilho Filmes on Vimeo.