Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 25 November 2011
Grey Gardens, Nov 24, 2011 ***
Book by Doug Wright, Music by Scott Frankel, Lyrics by Michael Korie Produced by The Production Company
Playhouse, Victorian Arts Centre, Nov 24 to Dec 4, 2011
Reviewed: Kate Herbert, November 24, 2011
Stars:*** Published in Herald Sun on Monday Nov 28, 2011
Nancye Hayes & Pamela Rabe in Grey Gardens, The Production Company, Melbourne
If you missed the unsettling documentary, Grey Gardens, this Tony award winning musical adaptation captures the essence of the riches to rags story of Jacqueline Kennedy’s eccentric, formerly wealthy cousin, ‘Little’ Edie Bouvier Beale (Pamela Rabe) and aunt, Edith Bouvier Beale (Nancye Hayes).
The musical is set in Grey Gardens, a 28-room mansion in the Hamptons during two time periods: 1941 when it was elegant and luxurious, and 1973 when Edie and Edith were living in squalor in the dilapidated, filthy mansion, overrun with cats and facing a Board of Health action.
By splitting the action into two periods, playwright Doug Wright allows comparison of their privileged, hopeful past with the grim reality of their squalid future.
Grey Gardens has some great songs and delicious characters, but the second half is the more compelling.
Scott Frankel’s music balances peppy show tunes with poignant ballads and Michael Korie’s skilfully crafted, witty and rapid lyrics encapsulate the peculiar behaviour and bizarre quotes from the real women.
Pamela Rabe plays Edith in 1941, but is more effective, entertaining, sympathetic and detailed as Edie in 1973, so we forgive her vocal, upper register limitations.
Rabe is hilarious singing Revolutionary Costume and totally inhabits Edie with her oddball habits, observations and speech patterns and weird costumes constructed from old clothing.
However, Rabe lacks vocal control singing the restrained, emotional ballad, Another World.
Nancye Hayes is suitably demanding, obsessive and irrational as Edie’s mother, Edith, and she sings a fine version of The Girl Who Has Everything.
Liz Stiles is a playful Young Edie with a bright vocal tone, James Millar is comically camp as Gould, while Bert LaBonte, Alex Rathgeber and John O’May are capable in other roles.
Grey Gardens has some great songs and delicious characters, but the second half is the more compelling with its disquieting view of this fractious, co-dependent relationship.