Thursday, November 27, 2008

Honorable Mansion

Theatre Review (Musical)
Grey Gardens
Northlight Theatre
Skokie, IL

Much as when I saw the original Broadway production last year, Northlight's rendition of Grey Gardens was an impressive production of a solid musical with an interesting story featuring an excellent leading lady. But due to the music itself being workable yet not particularly memorable, the show, as in New York, fell short of being outstanding.

Based on a 1975 documentary of the same name, Grey Gardens tells the story of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie, the aunt and cousin of Jackie Onassis, who wound up living in filth in their once glorious but fallen into disrepair East Hampton mansion named Grey Gardens.

The first act of the musical shows the Beales when they were ostensibly high-on-the-hog yet still somewhat delusional, about to celebrate Edie's engagement to Joe Kennedy in 1941. I won't reveal plot details, but the fact that Act II showcases their lives in 1973, shared with 52 cats--luckily not onstage, as I'm allergic--should indicate that not everything went as planned.

Noted Chicago actress Hollis Resnik plays Edith in Act I and Edie in Act II, and while not quite on par with Broadway star Christine Ebersole, she is very good. As are all her castmates. And just as an introduction to a historical side show of sorts, on both the highest and lowest levels, the show is worth seeing. For what it is, it is well done, and I'd give the performance itself @@@@1/2. But a performance is always at the mercy of its source material, and it's quite unlikely you'll come away humming any songs or seeking out the original cast recording.

So as an evening of theatre, it gets my vote. But to describe it as a truly great musical, well the cats' got my tongue.

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