I saw two theatrical productions this weekend and both were excellent and challenging in their different ways.
GREY GARDENS: THE MUSICAL
Grey Gardens is based on the 1975 documentary by Albert & David Maysles that depicts the story of the eccentric Beales, a mother and daughter both named Edith. They lived in squalor in a run down mansion called Grey Gardens in the Hamptons – New York. Of interest here is that they are the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.
Strange subject for a Broadway musical you might say, but it works very well. In the documentary the women talk and bicker to the camera telling how it was and how it could have been. How did these former socialites end up like this? The musical’s first act shows us the early years of the Beales and the circumstances that led to their strange co-dependancy. Act 2 closely follows the documentary. The musical has a book by acclaimed playwright Doug Wright (I am My Own Wife, Quills), lyrics by Michael Korie and music by Scott Frankel the score owes a lot to the musical style of Stephen Sondheim. It was first performed off-Broadway in 2006 then transferring to the main stem in a revised version. It won Tony awards for it’s leading ladies Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson.
The Australian premiere has been mounted by The Production Company and features two of Australia’s most talented women – Pamela Rabe and Nancye Hayes. Rabe plays Big Edie in act 1 and in act 2 takes on the role of Little Edie with Hayes portraying the elderly mother Big Edie.
It is a fine production, deftly directed by Roger Hodgman, simple and no fuss, letting the actors shine and boy do they shine. Rabe is monstrous as Big Edie, hilarious and heartbreaking as Little Edie – able to ham it up as the roles allow, her final song is very poignant. Hayes is very much her equal, funny and moving as an old lady frustrated at losing her faculties and relying on her odd daughter’s support. The rest of the cast are very good, I couldn’t fault this fine production which gave it’s final performance from a limited season on Sunday.
Nancye Hayes & Pamela Rabe
Pamela Rabe as Little Edie in Act 1
EDDIE IZZARD – STRIPPED
What a dazzling talent Mr. Izzard is, standing alone on stage for nearly two hours (with intermission) a full force funny man like no other- Izzard the blizzard I say!!!
Izzard’s comedic style has been described as rambling, whimsical and self-referential. His storytelling goes off on all sorts of tangents, with hilarious results. This particular show has a structure in which he explains the formation of the world and civilisation from the beginning of time when ‘god’ had a few busy days being creative. His left leaning politics are apparent but not overdone making it all the more powerful. Highlights for me were a rant on Apple ITunes agreements and downloads, and an observation of the vegetable bok choy, his thread on the Latin language was side splitting, actually the whole night was side splitting and his appreciative audience lapped it up. His talents of voice control and physical comedy to match are outstanding, comedy with this much intelligence is very rare, I just loved every minute of it. Eddie Izzard you are a marvel.
Eddie the incredible