Monthly Archives: May 2011

Grey Gardens – Pure Gold

When I heard that there was to be a local Melbourne production of the Broadway musical “Grey Gardens” I became very excited. I love the documentary it is based on and was an admirer of the telemovie that starred Drew Barrymore & Jessica Lange. Also I have seen a pirated copy of the Broadway show. I am a HUGE Grey Gardens fan.

But I was baffled as to who would be cast in the roles of Big Edie & Little Edie Bouvier Beale???

For those who are unaware of the story, Big Edie and her daughter Little Edie were the aunt and first cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. The two women lived together at a house called Grey Gardens in the Hamptons for decades, with very little money, living in squalor and  isolation. A 1975 documentary made by David & Albert Maysles revealed the everyday lives of the codependent mother & daughter socialites, it became a cult classic and was rediscovered a few years back spawning the musical and telemovie.

In the musical the first act imagines the early years of the women and explores the reasoning behind the later years of their lives. The second act features the later years and includes the documentary makers as characters. The actress who plays Big Edie in the first act goes on to play Little Edie in the second. It is the role of a lifetime for an actress. The part of Big Edie in the second act is also a meaty part. So who has been cast you may ask?

As Little Edie we have the wonderful Pamela Rabe, arguably a first lady of the Melbourne theatre scene, and as Big Edie stage veteran and an immense talent – Nancye Hayes. Inspired casting I say – I can’t wait to see it.

The Production Company (Melbourne’s equivalent of NY’s Encores series) will present the musical at the Playhouse Theatre for 12 performances November 25 to Dec 4.

The real life Little Edie

The real Big Edie

Drew Barrymore & Jessica Lange as TV’s Little Edie & Big Edie.

Pamela Rabe as Little Edie

Look!!! a Little Edie dolly 🙂

Look again!!!! a Big Edie dolly 🙂

Entrepreneur Jeannie Pratt head of The production Company who is presenting GG.

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Filed under biography, Casting news, Dolls, musical, Theatre

Almost Next To Normal.

“Next To Normal” is an excellent piece of musical theatre. A rock musical with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt. It’s about a mother who struggles with a bipolar disorder and the effect that her illness has on her family. It also addresses such issues as grieving, suicide, drug abuse, psychiatry and suburban life. It certainly is no Mary Poppins

The musical was a hit on Broadway a year or so ago  and considering the subject matter a huge triumph for its creators. It also won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2010. I was fortunate to see the show on my trip to New York last July starring Alice Ripley in the lead role of Diana for which she won the best actress Tony award. She was brilliant,the production was smart, high tech and very moving. The only fault was that the music was very loud and sometimes the lyrics were hard to follow.

The Melbourne Theatre Company have launched a local version of the show and I must say I was underwhelmed.

I was at the first preview so I must try and be kind, but I am afraid this local misconcieved version disappointed. Why?  Well I must first and foremost blame the set, therefore I must blame the director – Dean Bryant (a protege of Simon Phillips) who agreed to the set, second I must blame the leading male actor – the husband, as played by a miscast Matt Hetherington who is not up for such a demanding role, his musical comedy roots showing, not his acting chops.

It is hard not to compare it to the NY show as it is still very fresh in my mind. The 3 tiered setting of a house with large Lichenstein-like eyes of the mother watching over you was masterful in making you feel like you may be in the mind of the troubled heroine – well that was my interpretation of it anyway. The scaffolding set was full of lights and action, constantly on the move, shifting shape to accommodate all the various settings within the house and other locations, even though it was constantly in motion the set never distracted from the storytelling. This can’t be said of the MTC version. More realistic in style , you know you are in a middle class American home with its slatted projected leafy walls, and Victorian staircase. It still moves at a frenetic pace but you notice every movement and it is very distracting. Cut the sliding walls by half and maybe it may work.

It is admirable when a local production tries its own version but sometimes you wish they wouldn’t try and tamper with it too much – Simon Phillips certainly didn’t do it in the past!!!! Alas the sound problems of inaudible lyrics repeats like the NY show, perhaps it is the intention of the composers to bombard you, just like Diana and her demons inside her head.

The New York production of N2N

MTC production of N2N Photo by Jeff Busby

Kate Kendall and cast in the MTC – N2N, photo by Jeff Busby

Aside for the miscasting of Matt H the rest of the cast are all very good, especially Kate Kendall in the lead role of Diana, she has a good voice and once she settles into the role will nail the mixture of madness and pathos required, she was 3/4 of the way there on the first preview.

Perhaps the show will be best to see towards the end of its short run (if you can get tickets) then the kinks will be ironed out and perhaps Mr. Herrington might get a grasp of the material, as for now the show is almost Next To Normal.

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Slap Happy Babs is back!!

After being slapped around in the past few months, Babs is back.

I have had very few posts since I began work on the ABC adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas‘  award winning novel “The Slap”.  It was exhausting work but I am proud to say that I believe it will make for excellent television by Australian standards.  With a stellar cast including Oscar nominee Sophie Okonedo (a lovely lady indeed) and returning home after being away – Melissa George (prepare for a knockout performance). Joining them is Alex Dimitriades as the “slapper” and Anthony’s younger brother – Jonathan LaPaglia, not to mention the divine Essie Davis as my favorite character – Anouk, and the lovely Diana Glenn. Anthony Hayes, Sophie Lowe, Blake Davis and Lex Marinos round out the talented bunch. With a gaggle of AFI award winning directors – Jessica Hobbs, Matthew Saville, Tony Ayres and Robert Connelly it will surely be landmark quality TV from Australia – here’s hoping!! Best of luck in the post production period and expect it to be on our TV screens later in the year.

Author Christos Tsiolkas – photo by Wayne Taylor

Alex Dimitriades, Melissa George & Sophie Lowe

The boys of “The Slap” – Anthony Hayes (Gary), Jonathan LaPaglia (Hector) & Alex Dimitriades (Harry) – photo by Jason South

Jonathan LaPaglia (Hector) & Sophie Lowe (Connie) – photo © Matchbox Pictures/ABC

The beautiful & very talented Sophie Okonedo (Aisha) Photo by Matt Carr

I must say that it did prove difficult to blog and decorate at the same time.

Hopefully in the next few weeks I will be back at speed informing you of my very own opinion of all things entertainment.

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