We find only one flaw in The Justice Theater Project’s production of Grey Gardens: The Musical, but we hope it will be corrected. We question the need for amplification of the performers at all, and unfortunately that was most noticeable in the case of Jeri Lynn Schulke, whom we could almost never understand when she sang because of the sound distortion. Schulke carries so much of the show that it’s a shame to lose the content of those lyrics.
Doug Wright wrote the book for this show, Scott Frankel composed the music, and Michael Korie penned the very clever lyrics. Grey Gardens is a rendition of the story that broke in 1973 regarding the squalor the cousins of Jackie Kennedy Onassis were living in in their mansion in East Hampton, New York.
Grey Gardens points up a simple but easily passed over truth — psychological and emotional distress effects people in all walks of life; money, power and prestige are no barriers for these illnesses. It also deals with the compelling emphasis that has been placed on women to “Marry Well” and stay virginal, as Major Bouvier’s song tells us.
The show is fast, and the singing is not only excellent, but incredibly hard, especially the discordant duets, where staying on one’s own notes must be a feat of unusually strong focus. Director Jerry Sipp has rehearsed his cast well and keeps them moving appropriately and with purpose. His actors’ characters are well developed and three dimensional, right down to Allison Baumgartner and Monica Powell, who play Jacqueline and Lee Bouvier, respectively. The dance numbers are well choreographed, and have tricky moves that add to the fun.
Jeri Lynn Schulke plays Edie Bouvier Beale (in the first act), the mother of “Little” Edie Beale, and then the adult “Little” Edie Beale in the second act. Schulke does a fine job of performing these two roles, with the exception noted above, which is a technical problem.
The younger “Little” Edie Beale is delightfully brought to us by Jess Barbour with grace and verve and charm. Alison Lawrence will make your skin crawl as the elder Edith Bouvier, employing a harridan’s scratchy voice, and giving herself the unkempt appearance of slovenliness and madness.
The venerable Dan Mason makes J. V. “Major” Bouvier a marvelously pompous stick-in-the mud, set in his ways and with tradition as his flag of honor. He also gives us Norman Vincent Peale in a wonderful send-up of the power of positive thinking. The show is rounded out with superb performances by Dexter Morgan, Jason Hassell, and Eric Morales.
Grey Gardens: The Musical is performed on one of the best sets that Justice Theater Project artistic director Deb Royals and staff have designed, with the stage sandwiched between to sets of audience bleachers, and the various portions used for several areas of the house. In Act I, the set conveys the glamor and wealth of a stately mansion; and in the second act becomes overgrown, filthy, and overly cluttered.
Brenda L. Hayes’ costumes tell the story of the family’s disintegration from wealth, poise, and power to utter despair. The musical accompaniment by Dwayne Jordan, Tyler Leak, and Joe Wimberley, directed by Michael Santangelo, is right on time and befits the madness of the household.
This is the last show of The Justice Theatre Project’s 2013-14 season, and it not one you will want to miss.
SECOND OPINION: June 16th Durham, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/06/16/3941007/review-clever-staging-cant-salvage.html.
The Justice Theater Project presents GREY GARDENS: THE MUSICAL at 8 p.m. June 19-21, 2 p.m. June 22, 8 p.m. June 26-28, and 2 p.m. June 29 in Clare Hall at the Catholic Community of Saint Francis of Assisi, 11401 Leesville Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27613.
TICKETS: $20 ($15 students and seniors), except $12 per ticket for groups of 10 or more.
BOX OFFICE: http://www.etix.com/.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-264-7089 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHOW: http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/default.html, http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/All-About-Grey-Gardens.html, and https://www.facebook.com/events/234151613450354/.
PRESENTER: http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/” and https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Justice-Theater-Project/29290766458.
VENUE: http://www.stfrancisraleigh.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Catholic-Community-of-St-Francis-of-Assisi/172774212838785.
NOTE 1: There will be a preshow panel discussion on “Our Stories” from families and caregivers ill and aging parents, starting at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 21st.
NOTE 2: Seed Art Share will provide FREE childcare and activities during the 2 p.m. Sunday, June 22nd, performance. The children must be potty trained, and advance reservations are required.
NOTE 3: View the documentary for FREE at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 25th.
NOTE 4: There will be a preshow panel discussion on “Living Arrangements” for the aging and elderly, starting at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 28th.
NOTE 5: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the 2 p.m. Sunday, June 29th, performance for visually impaired patrons and their drivers, who will be admitted FREE. Advance reservations are required.
Grey Gardens (home located in East Hampton, Long Island, NY): http://greygardensonline.com/ (an informal database of all things related to the singular world of “Big” Edith and “Little” Edie Beale).
Grey Gardens (1975 documentary film): http://www.mayslesfilms.com/films/films/greygardens.html (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_Gardens (Wikipedia).
Grey Gardens: The Musical (2006 Off-Broadway and Broadway musical): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_Gardens_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).
Scott Frankel (music): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Frankel (Wikipedia).
Michael Korie (lyrics): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Korie (Wikipedia).
Doug Wright (book): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doug_Wright (Wikipedia).
Jerry Sipp (director): http://www.jerrysipp.com/ (official website) and https://www.facebook.com/jerry.sipp (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.