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

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20 Mar 2013

Soraya Ravenle
Soraya Ravenle

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.


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